The Incline Village Golf Pros (Ashley Wood, Darren Howard and Kyle Thornburg) have been working hard and counting down the days until they can welcome everyone back to play golf at the Championship and Mountain Courses this spring. During the work week they are busy with meetings, lessons, and figuring out all the details for the 2021 season. Here’s an interview to give you a glimpse of what the pros are up to when they’re not at their desks:
Have you picked up any new hobbies or started any new routines since the pandemic started last March?
- Ashley: I adopted a new puppy in December, so we’ve been adjusting to new routines every day. His name is Onyx and he’s a mix breed, we call him a Pet Network Special!
- Darren: I have started cooking from scratch and developing my own recipes. My favorite thing so far is making pasta, pizza dough and biscuits. I got a new Kitchen Aid that I use all the time.
- Kyle: I started concentrating more on my golf game to play competitively again. Not a new hobby, but a lot of fun to get the adrenaline of competition going.
How are you staying active during the off-season?
- Ashley:Trying to do a workout schedule and at home Yoga. Now that things are starting to open up and weather has been better, I can feel I am being more active.
- Darren: I do a lot of stretching and started playing basketball again. Also taking the dog out more to play fetch.
- Kyle: Riding my E-Bike around Incline with my dogs and walking when I play golf off the hill.
Have you played golf this winter/spring? Which was your favorite course and why?
- Ashley: I went on a 16 day RV road trip through Southern Nevada, Southern Utah, Arizona, So. Cal and up through Death Valley. Felt very COVID safe and got to play some fun courses along the way. I think my favorite was The Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley. Was fun to play the lowest elevation course in the world since coming from one of the highest! We also were able to take the dogs on the course, which made for a fun round for everyone!
- Darren: Yes, played in Vegas and Cancun. I love Cascata in Vegas because of the variety of holes and how you have to hit certain shots to always stay below the hole. Makes you think!
- Kyle: I played in a Northern California PGA Section match play qualifier at Corica Park in Alameda, California. I qualified and I won my first two matches at Coral de Tierra Country Club before losing in the round of 16 at Old Del Monte in Monterey, California. Corica Park is a GREAT golf course. The South Course was recently redone by Reese Jones Jr. and the North Course is scheduled to be finished soon. If you are in the Alameda area and looking for golf this is a must play public golf course!
For you, what is the most difficult hole to play on The Mountain or Championship course?
- Ashley: I think hole 15 is the hardest hole on the Mountain Course. This may surprise everyone as it’s the shortest hole and one of my favorites, but I think because it’s so short and so downhill it’s hard to adjust mentally. It’s also the most satisfying when you do hit a good shot and watch it fall from the sky and on to the green.
- Darren: #14 on the Championship Course because I am never quite sure what to hit off the tee. Uncertainty is very bad in golf!
- Kyle: Championship Course - #4 – The green when the golf course is in season is very difficult to hold and then putting the green is always a challenge. Great hole requiring two pin point shots to have a look at a birdie. Mountain Course - #13 – Risk reward hole. Go for the green on the drive, or lay up? A great green complex as well.
Have you ever made a hole-in-one? If so, tell us about it. If not, tell us about your best hole of golf.
- Ashley: I’ve had a few hole-in-ones at The First Tee Golf Course I worked at in San Diego, they were only 60 yard holes and I was just practicing with the kids, so still waiting for my hole-in-one during a round of golf at the Mountain Course. I am still excited about hitting the flagstick from 200 yards this last March down in Scottsdale, but I didn’t make the putt for eagle.
- Darren: I have made 3, my first was in Hilton Head at Long Cove Club where I was working and I also set the course record that day, fortunately for me it was the 17th hole and I didn’t have long to think about it. The second one was in a Pro-Am in Vegas on the 11th hole at Stallion Mountain. It was a 3-day tournament and on the last day I did not get off to a good start and the hole-in-one got me back to even par and I went on to win the tournament. The 3rd was at Houston Oaks on the 9th hole over water, very tricky hole. I had just missed an easy birdie putt on the hole before, so I was not in a good mood when I hit the shot, but was in a much better mood after I hit it.
- Kyle: Never had a golf ball go in the hole from a tee box...
Tell us about your most challenging hole or shot you’ve had and what happened.
- Ashley: First hole at my first tournament playing as a Division I golfer at San Diego State. I had all the nerves and ended up getting a 9 on the hole. Luckily, I had a great coaching staff and knew I had a lot of golf left and wasn’t completely out of the tournament. I learned a lot from that hole and am glad I had that experience because I think challenges like that make us better golfers in the long run. The other bad shots and bad holes I try to forget.
- Darren: I have played many holes that are very challenging, but the most challenging as well as most scenic was at Old Head in Ireland. The 12th hole is a par 5 that is on a peninsula. All down the right side is water and about a 200 foot cliff that you have to hit over for your drive. Too far left and you will need to re-tee, too far right and you are in the “Heather” and will most likely have a lost ball. The tee shot must be hit solid and in the fairway, but if you do pull off the tee shot you are now faced with a second shot that if you are brave enough, you can potentially reach the green. The green is very small and surrounded by water and tall heather, so there is nowhere to miss if you do not hit the green. The lay-up is as hard, the fairway funnels to about a 20-25 yard width from 100 yard to the green. When I played it, I hit a very solid drive across the ravine and in the fairway, but I was a chicken and laid-up to about 75 yards and just missed my birdie putt. I would love to go back and try to hit the green in two someday! This hole is not only challenging, but beautiful as well and you have to be careful not to get caught up in the beauty or you will make “X” on the hole.
- Kyle: In the 2nd round of this year’s NCPGA Match Play, I was two down with two holes to go. I had a Par 3 and a Par 5 as the finishing holes and needed birdie on both to force extras. I made a 30’ putt from below the hole on 17 for birdie and win the hole, then made another birdie on 18 from about 20’ to extend the match to extra holes. On the first playoff hole I left myself about 8’ below the hole and made the putt for birdie to win the match.
What are you looking forward to this golf season?
- Ashley: I’m looking forward to seeing the community members again and hopefully getting back to some normalcy. I really am excited for the renovated Clubhouse here at the Mountain Course and am excited to host events and see everyone enjoying some safe social activities.
- Darren: Hopefully getting back to no restrictions and somewhat normalcy for golf operations. I also look forward to seeing all the residents enjoying both course Incline Village has to offer.
- Kyle: Seeing those I wasn’t able to see due to the pandemic. We missed a lot of our residents last season so seeing some familiar faces is what I look forward to the most!
(photos from top: Ashley Wood with Onyx, Kyle Thornburg with Robb Bruce at Bandon Dunes, Darren Howard hiking with Oakley near Monkey Rock)