NCGA Golf

Spring 2019

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Ole Hervilla and his wife, Cora, in 1937 began to expand into an inn. It now has 65 rooms, a spa, two tennis courts, a well- known restaurant and a porch just made for hours of staring at the Pacific. At the right time of year whales can be seen spout- ing near the shore. The Little River Inn hosted the entire crew that worked during the filming of the 1960s Jonathan Winters' comedy, "The Russians Are Coming". The setting of the iconic Eli Kazan film "East of Eden" took place in Monterey but was filmed in and around Mendocino. The crew and actors visited often, including James Dean, who became a star after the film. The story has it that Dean got kicked out of the hotel restaurant by Ole for putting his cowboy boots up on the bar. "Grain of salt,' said Cally Dym, Ole's granddaughter and fifth generation Hervilla who works at the inn and whose husband, Marc, is the chef. But she confirms that one day, Ole Hervilla was watching Arnold Palmer on TV and thought a golf course by the inn would be a great attraction. In 1957, he called one golf architect but thought his price to build a course was too expensive. Another architect's price was higher, and a third's was higher yet. "Thank you very much, sir," Hervilla is said to have replied on his last inquiry. "You just made me a golf architect." Soon, he and a friend hopped on bulldozers and shaped a golf course. "They pretty much made what you see today," said Cally Dym. A short walk up a slope past the practice tee puts you on the first tee, an uphill par- 4. The course measures well under 3,000 yards and yet it plays much longer. The bent grass is heavy and there is moisture in the air due to proximity to the ocean. The par-3 second reverses direc- tion, but the third and fourth holes, both par-5s, continue the ascent. No. 5 turns around and the routing de- scends. There's an 18-hole "route" in which the blue tees are played on the first nine, whites on the second. The difference in yardage is slight, though two extra greens have been added. The par-3 sev- enth measures 135 yards but a second green stretches No. 16 to 204 yards. The last hole also has two greens, a 177-yard par-3 as No. 9 and a 269-yard par-4 as 18. The last two holes afford views of the Pacific. The greens are small, the bunkering minimal. Carts are available, but why? That the first green is a rudimentary push-up oval heavily slanted back-to-front testifies to the homemade character of the course. Danny Hervilla, Ole's son, recalls finding arrowheads and pottery near the first and ninth green, which probably date to a Pomo Indian settlement. Danny and about 240 others are mem- bers of the LRI men's group. Fees are $25 for nine, $40 for 18. The Youth On Course rate is $5. There's a small driving range as well. The drive is memorable and beautiful, too. The best way is to take Highway 101 north of the Golden Gate up through the Marin County suburbs past Santa Rosa into the Russian River Valley town of Cloverdale. There you connect with High- way 128 to head northwest on a two-lane dream of a road – with some kinks, to be sure – that doesn't have a stoplight or stop sign on it for 67 miles into Mendocino. Along the way you pass some of Cali- fornia's best wine regions (Dry Creek near Healdsburg off 101), then into the Ander- son Valley on 128 where you'll find Scharf- fenberger and Roederer Estate champagne cellars as well as Edmeades, Husch, Ripley and Navarro wineries, just 35 miles from the Little River Inn. As you head west on 128 near the town of Philo the car seemingly submarines below the sunlight surface, the eerie effect of being plunged into a dense fir and red- wood forest with treetops well over 100 feet above. By the time the highway pops back into the light it's like you've entered another state of mind. The Big Fern Trail is near the Little River Inn. This seven-mile loop affords for- aging for berries and seed pods and prox- imity to ferns the size of a Subaru as well as the towering redwoods and fir. At the top, you cannot see the Pacific but you can feel it and can barely hear the roar of the waves on the rocks. Something lasting begins to insinuate into your heart and you start to feel… "Mendo." Ted Johnson lives in Danville, where he is in constant search for the perfect wedge. NCGA.ORG | SPRING 2019 71

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