Saturday, November 27, 2021
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Valley Star Wards offers great lineup of entertainment

20200129 VSA desert polynesiaEvery year, the Valley Star Awards offers a great lineup of entertainment – and this year is no different. The lineup includes some of the best Wintertainers™ performing in the Winter Texan parks and resorts during the Winter months. This year’s lineup includes Rick McEwen, Dave and Daphne, Tom Wurth, Desert Polynesia, Maggie Mae and Dan Smith, and Absolutely Country, Definitely Gospel.

Rick McEwen performs classic rock, classic country, rhythm and blues and soul music. He is a member of the Traditional Country Hall of Fame. He has performed with greats such as Earl Suggs, Webb Pierce and The Dillards. He has opened for Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Dottie West and other county legends.

Dave Salyer has toured the world with Barbara Mandrell, performed for presidents at the White House and has appeared on countless TV shows. Daphne Anderson has toured with some of the greatest Southern Gospel Groups and has been described as a cross between Shania Twain and Patsy Cline. Together, they perform country music and Daphne yodels.

Read more: Valley Star Wards offers great lineup of entertainment

Golf Favorites: Second Stop – Tierra Santa Golf Club

20200129 TierraSanta The Rio Grande Valley golf landscape is unique. There are no real elevation changes (unless you count moguls), leaves will never fall in the fairway enough to cover your ball and you will never be unable to play due to snow.

That pretty much means year-round golf.

Last week we featured a Valley favorite – Palm View Golf Course. In today’s edition we will take a look at another favorite – Tierra Santa Golf Club. The next issue will feature a Lower-Valley area favorite.

By filling out the survey, you could win free rounds of golf or other prizes – just by voting for your favorite RGV golf courses. You can fill out the form in today’s edition of the Winter Texan Times (or the next two issues) or fill out the form online at www.wintertexantimes.com. All entries must be received by 4 p.m., Wednesday, February 12.

Read more: Golf Favorites: Second Stop – Tierra Santa Golf Club

Golf Favorites: First Stop – Palm View Golf Course

20200122 PalmView IMG 9636The Rio Grande Valley golf landscape is unique. There are no real elevation changes (unless you count moguls), leaves will never fall in the fairway enough to cover your ball and you will never be unable to play due to snow.

That pretty much means year-round golf.

In today’s edition we will take a look at one of last year's Upper-Valley Favorites – Palm View Golf Course. Then the next two issues we look at a favorite from the Mid- and Lower-Valley areas.

By filling out the survey, you could win free rounds of golf or other prizes – just by voting for your favorite RGV golf courses. You can fill out the form in today’s edition of the Winter Texan Times (or the next two issues) or fill out the form online at www.wintertexantimes.com. All entries must be received by 4 p.m., Wednesday, February 12.

Read more: Golf Favorites: First Stop – Palm View Golf Course

It’s time to vote for your favorite entertainers

2020122 Dave Daphne promo picShows and dances hosted by mobile home and RV parks and resorts are attended in numbers by the Winter Texans that spend their winters here in the Rio Grande Valley. The parks and resorts spend a lot of effort getting popular wintertainers to perform at their venues. Each year, the Valley Star Awards, hosted by Robert Ferguson and the Winter Texan Times, presents awards to the Rio Grande Valley’s top Winter Texan entertainers – are as we call them, “Wintertainers™.”

This year’s Valley Star Awards will be held on Wednesday, February 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Mission Bell Resort. Lunch will be available from 12 to 1 p.m.
So now it’s time to vote for your favorite Wintertainers™ - and the Entertainer of the Year for 2020.

Read more: It’s time to vote for your favorite entertainers

Victoria Palms Restaurant

The Man, The Myth, The Legend?

                                   Omelet you decide

If you have never had an omelet made by Dave at the Victoria Palms Restaurant located at Victoria Palms RV Park, the experience is a must. In fact, recently a couple drove from Rio Hondo to Donna to partake of a masterpiece creation by “The Omelet Guy.”

“I told them they probably had passed 50 restaurants that served omelets,” said Rountree, in his 11th season making omelets and waffles and more for customers. “They said they read it in the newspapers and just had to come and try one.”

Similarly, I had to try what is becoming a local legend - an omelet by Dave.

“It’s just an omelet,” Dave said as he tossed some mushrooms, onions, bacon and jalapeños into what was to become my three-egg breakfast, with hash browns and wheat toast. “It’s not rocket science, or I wouldn’t be doing it.”

Dave is coming up on his 100,000th omelet being served in his 11 seasons here. He began as a breakfast cook in St. Louis back in 1969, hitchhiking from the Valley not long after graduating from PSJA High that May.

“I started as a breakfast cook in St. Louis and now I’m a breakfast cook here,” he joked. “With a lot of mileage in between.”

The omelet was perfect - and a meal in itself. Soon, others lined up asking for a variety of Dave’s creations.

The omelet, however, is just part of breakfast. For the complete experience, one needs to just sit near Dave, and, for no additional charge, a fantastic conversation will surely ensue.

“This is the time of year when grandchildren will come visit their grandparents here,” Dave said. “This one girl told me I was making her first omelet. I asked her old she was, and she said she was 12.

“I told her the bad thing was that if she lives to be 100, she won’t have one that’s better than her first.”

Dave loves to cook. He loves to talk with people. Once a month he will cook for 52 people - 26 in one group and 26 in another - from the deck of he and his wife, Lynne’s, trailer.

“When I retire - not anytime soon as long as I can put my feet down and come here - I’m thinking about cooking from home like that once a week. I love to cook.”

And that’s a good thing. From omelets to fluffy and crispy waffles, the “Omelet guy” is a must to add to your bucket list. Maybe you’ll be the lucky one to eat his 100,000th omelet at Victoria Palms. If not, you’re still lucky to experience Dave and an omelet any chance you get.

Golfers share their favorite Hidden Gems

golf follow up2For six months out of the year, John McCutcheon works on a golf course cutting grass as the Legacy Ridge’s groundskeeper in Owenstown, Ontario.

Now, however, he and his wife are back in the Rio Grande Valley and enjoying the weather, food and friendly people at their Victoria Palms winter home. And for these six months, McCutcheon is playing golf instead of working it.

“Whenever I can get out on the golf course, I’m just thrilled,” said McCutcheon, who has been golfing for 49 years, since he was 16 years old. “A friend back home was telling me he just pulled his boat off the dock and he was walking on ice. He said it turned icy Nov. 12, the earliest in 50 years.

“So, yeah, I’m pretty thrilled to be on a golf course any day here.”

McCutcheon, like most golfers, have his favorite courses and within those favorite courses there are a few holes that are more enjoyable to play for the golfer than others– it could be because of the challenge, or because they do well on it or simply because of the scenery and nature. These are the course’s hidden gems, holes that rise up to the player’s favorites list and keeps them coming back for more.

McCutcheon said he plays Tierra Santa, Los Lagos and Palmview the most, but added that “Palmview is the most challenging because all the balls run into the water.”

“Tierra Santa is close, so we play that one a lot. I think the thing down here that’s different, and I like, is the fact that the fairways are wide, especially at Tierra Santa. They are very forgiving, there are no out of bounds.”

Almost every golfer who has played anywhere in the Valley probably knows of Tierra Santa’s No. 18, possibly the most challenging, and picturesque ending hole in the RGV. Of course, it’s the first one McCutcheon mentions when talking about his list of “hidden gems.”

“No. 18 at Tierra Santa is very challenging and fun to play,” he said.

“Another one I enjoy that’s challenging is the little par 3 at Los Lagos, it’s kind of like an island green and you never know what the wind is going to do out there.”

Another extremely popular hole at Tierra Santa is the split fairway No. 8. A golf can try to go over the water on the left side, or be safe and go right – then still have to go over water for an approach shot into the green.

“You can find water on every shot on that hole,” McCutcheon said. “I’ve taken a 7-iron down the right side and then another into the green and I feel more comfortable there. I enjoy playing that hole.”

McCutcheon has one hole-in-one to his name, that came back in Meaford, Ontario, off a tee box that was elevated 150 feet, making the shot to the green downhill.

“I was playing with my son and we couldn’t see the green and we didn’t know where it went,” he said. “Usually my best shot is like that, one you can’t see.”

Barry Janssen also loves challenges and he said that he gets a good challenge especially with holes No. 8 and 18 at Llano Grande Golf Course and with 1 and 11 at Tony Butler Municipal Course in Harlingen.

He especially likes starting off his round with the big dogleg right at Tony Butler.golf follow up1

“It’s a real big dogleg and if you don’t get your tee shot in the right spot, you are almost guaranteed to not get over the creek on the second shot,” said Janssen, a Minnesota native who lives in Lakewood Village and enjoys playing Llano Grande, Tony Butler, Monte Cristo and Treasure Hills golf courses.

“I also like No. 11 there. It’s a little shorter par 4 from 340 yards out, but with a good drive you can reach the green because it’s downhill after that. You can make quite a few birdies on that hole.”

Janssen actually picked up the sport when some of his softball teammates saw how far he could crush a softball – the same can be said now off the tee.

“I liked hitting the crap out of it,” Janssen said, adding he didn’t start playing golf until he was 29 or 30 years old. “But I’ve learned in the past year or so to slow down and hit the ball square and it will go just as far as if you’re trying to hit the crap out of it.”

Janssen added the biggest difference to him on South Texas golf courses is the grass.

“I just wish I could get out more often to play. I was a contractor for 47 years and was out working whether it was 87 degrees or 20-below. I’d be working today, so I’m glad to be down here.”“It’s a lot different,” he said. “The fairways up there are almost like carpet, except for the six inches of leaves down the middle when fall arrives. I’d say, though, that the challenges are different, but over all about the same.

David Engstrom, of Kansas City, has been coming to the Valley for the past eight years and started golfing “30 or 40 years ago,” he said. He lives at Stuart Place in Harlingen and leans toward that course as his favorite, even though he also enjoys Treasure Hills.

“It’s not overly long but it does test you,” Engstrom said of Stuart Place, a nine-hole course. “You have to hit the ball straight to stay in the fairway and the greens are good. You’ll be rewarded with a good putt.”

His favorite gem is No. 6, a long par 5 where each shot is paramount in setting up the next shot.

“You need to hit a great tee shot and second shot and then you have to get over water to get to the green,” he said. “But if you do all those things then you will have a shot to be rewarded with a birdie.”
Of course, on any hole there’s also the wretched South Texas wind to face.

“You know how the wind is down here, No. 6 is a hole that plays into the wind a lot of the time

 because it faces south and that adds a lot of challenge to it,” he said. “A golf buddy told me once that wind doesn’t affect a well hit shot but one thing about wind is if you hit with a little slice or hook it makes it a big slice or hook, if you hit under it, it will make bigger what you’d done wrong. But 6 is also reachable if you have the wind behind you – and you hit a great tee shot.”

Engstrom is still waiting for his first hole-in-one (“there will be a big party when that happens”) but said that the “Valley needs to do more to get the word out about this place and about the Valley itself.”

“First of all, Stuart Place is the best kept golf course and best kept secret in the Valley,” he said. “It’s just like the Valley – the Valley is the best keep secret in the nation.”

Now, that is truly a hidden gem.

Favorite golf holes: Mid Valley hidden gems

20191030 TierraSanta1For several years we have gotten Winter Texans’ input on the Valley top golf course and favorite holes at the golf courses in the Rio Grande Valley. This year we are starting a little early with our series that introduces some hidden gems at the more popular Valley golf courses.

We will be running a three-part series introducing these hidden gems in three categories – lower, middle and upper Valley. These hidden gems are recommended by the golf pros, or regulars, at the golf courses.

In turn, we would like to hear from you during the series. We will have a survey on our website, www.wintertexantimes.com, for you to vote on your favorite hole. We will be taking votes until November 13.
We will announce winners in an article on November 20. 

Hidden gems, diamonds in the rough, unexpected surprises — like finding an extra $20 that was forgotten in the pocket of a pair of pants — can have a profound positive effect on one’s day.

Similarly, golf courses have some hidden gems of their own. Sure, they have their “signature holes,” usually the most difficult, most scenic or most unique (most of the times all three) hole on the course.

But hidden away are those other holes that bring a smile to a golfer’s face (sometimes dread) but, just like a mystery writer who throws twists and turns throughout their novels, golf courses do the same. Three of the courses in the Mid-Valley that often appear on top of Winter Texans’ favorite places to play are no different.

TIERRA SANTA GOLF CLUB, WESLACO

This course is loaded with gems. Everyone knows about what many consider the favorite closing hole in the Valley, the long par-4 that leaves most golfers with a decision on how to approach with water across most of the front.

Go for it? Or be safe and hit left, where a chip to the green awaits.

But everyone remembers No. 18 at Tierra Santa. Still, other holes await.

No. 3 is a gem of a gem. The par-4 starts the golfer off with a split fairway. Go the direct route and you have to fly the left-side lake, which means carrying your drive 190 yards and straight. Go slightly right and you may end up in the right-side lake. There are big rewards hitting a perfect drive, setting up for a short or mid-range pitch and run to the hole on the large green.

For the golfer who goes right, there’s plenty of open fairway. Slice the drive, however, and there’s a long approach over water and, if the pins are on that side of the green, you better “stick it.”

“It can be a pretty tough hole – it’s definitely made for golfers to think about it,” said the pro shop’s Dylan Martinez, who said he would play the course often when he was on the golf team at Harlingen High. 

20191030 Villiage Exect1

“It has rick and reward based on which way you go.”

VILLAGE EXECUTIVE GOLF COURSE, WESLACO

Walking into Village Executive Golf Course – which is about five miles from Tierra Santa, is like walking into the bar “Cheers,” instead of everybody knowing your name, it’s manager Marvie Torres who welcomes you in and knows you like family.

“Everyone considers this a mom and pop type place,” Torres said. “I know them all by name; I know what they like to drink and a lot about them.”

The mainly par-3 nine-hole course is a favorite among the Winter Texans “because it feels like home, it’s very comfortable. We’ve developed relationships, I have them on Facebook and we keep in touch.”

It’s also home to No. 9, the only par-3 that a hole-in-one hasn’t been recorded on. While it’s a straight shot – but with a crossing win usually, there seems to be a barrier around the finishing hole. Torres said that there’s a registry that goes back to the opening days of the golf course and taqueria (the official name is Village Executive Golf Course and Taqueria Del Golf).

“I don’t know why nobody has gotten a hole-in-one there,” Torres said. “Everybody likes No. 9. But they just haven’t (made a hole-in-one).”

Another gem is the fact that Estero Llano Grande State Park (part of the World Birding Center) is just across the road.

“A lot of golfers bring their cameras here because there’s a lot of nature on the course,” Torres said. “There are all sorts of beautiful birds that come to the course too.”

TONY BUTLER, HARLINGEN

This course is a jewel of golf history. That alone is a gem for golfers of all levels and experience.

The 27-hole municipal course doesn’t, however, just rest on its laurels.

David Arce, interim golf manager, said that No. 23 — a 348-yard par 4 — is a hole that isn’t very difficult, but it can be.

Most golfers are encouraged to lay up about 110 yards from the green where two ponds on each side of the fairway challenges golfers to “go for it.”

“The crazy ones like to think they can get it over,” Arce joked. “I guess potentially some of them can get across.”

For a bigger challenge, Arce said, go all the way back and tee off from the tips, where there’s a large ditch-like hazard that needs to be carried before attacking the rest of the sharp dogleg right.

“You can’t see the green from those tees,” Arce said. “If you hit too far right, you’re in an area with some natural terrain like mesquite and there’s a holding pond and a lot of native vegetation. It’s very brushy. On the other side we have more manicured trees. You can hit under and play through those.”

Click HERE to vote for your favorite golf hole.

Freddy's Steakburger's

Differently delicious

20191023 Freddys TOTV

A trip to Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers is more than a trip to another burger joint. For me, this was like a trip back home. In fact, manager Alexis Quiroz and I talked about the uniqueness that is Freddy’s.

The burger patties are thin but bigger than the bun, filled with flavor and some savory crispiness around the edges. The seasonings Freddy’s uses don’t get buried inside an inch-thick patty that gives off nothing but meat flavor. This, in itself was unique and the way my mom would make burgers back home in New York.

I took my burger with cheese, pickles and onions and the taste of home filled me even more. The pickles were oval-sliced, the onion and tomato fresh and the cheese, though basic, was an excellent complementary for this memorable burger.

I ordered my fries with chili and cheese, filled a couple tiny cups with their fries sauce – regular or jalapeno flavored and soon had a very large order sitting in front of me, with enough chili to have as a side order.

Again, the flavor of both the creamy and jalapeno (not hot by any means, but tasty) was a delicious addition to an already tasty order of fries, that would have been good enough just to dip in these sauces without the chili and cheese. Freddy’s also has a dry seasoning mixture that can be sprinkled over the fries so there are many options for a person to enjoy. In fact, the dry seasoning tastes like it could be good in soups, on meats and even cold salads like potato or macaroni.

20191023 Freddys Custar TOTV

Of course, you can’t go to Freddy’s without having some of their frozen custard – which is close to but not the same as regular ice cream. I almost think it’s made just for the Rio Grande Valley. Unlike most ice creams that quickly lose the “ice” part when you take it outside in the South Texas blistering heat, the same can’t be said for the custard.

With all the benefits of ice cream but with a thicker and smoother flavor, Freddy’s has several options for the customer – from their signature sundaes (my daughter had the signature Turtle Sundae and dug into it like I had never fed her before – she is now a big fan) to their concretes and shakes.

I just had a taste of their chocolate and vanilla custard and my mind took me back home again to an annual summertime trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sitting in the backseat of the car on the way to the quaint little village of Cooperstown – loaded with baseball memorabilia, a beautiful lake and several shops to enjoy – I would eagerly await the one stop we would make religiously about midway to our destination – to a little ice cream stand where the ice cream was thick, the vanilla could definitely be tasted and ice cream wouldn’t melt so easily. They probably did this on purpose because its location was in the middle of nowhere and they knew everyone would be driving after receiving their order.

So the trip to “another burger joint” was anything but that. It was differently delicous, delivered quickly and doled out in good portions.

Most importantly, you could enjoy the custard without it quickly turning into milk.

Favorite golf holes: Lower Valley hidden gems

20191023 RiverBendGolfCourse IMG 8544Hidden gems, diamonds in the rough, unexpected surprises — like finding an extra $20 that was forgotten in the pocket of a pair of pants — can have a profound positive effect on one’s day.

Similarly, golf courses have some hidden gems of their own. Sure, they have their “signature holes,” usually the most difficult, most scenic or most unique (most of the time all three) hole on the course.

But hidden away are those other holes that bring a smile to a golfer’s face (sometimes dread) but, just like a mystery writer who throws twists and turns throughout their novels, golf courses do the same.

Three of the courses in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that often appear on top of Winter Texans’ favorite places to play are no different. And, over the course of the past 12-18 months have made some changes to not only improve the course but also have made some of their gems all “shiny and new again.” 

River Bend Golf Club, Brownsville

Its signature hole is No. 17, a par-3 hole that sits about 220 yards and along the levy. It’s both scenic and can range in level of difficulty based on which tees it’s played from and how the wind is blowing – and from where.

But for Adrian Garcia, a retired golf coach for 30 years, 20 of them at Brownsville Hanna, River Bend offers multiple gems, especially No. 4, a 397-yard par-4.

“The blue and the gold tees are at different angles to start off,” Garcia said. “It’s a little bit like a bowl from the levy and it works its way up.

“The dogleg right fairway flows into an elevated green. But if you don’t hit your tee shot to the left or left-center side, you will have a blind shot going into the green. If you hit too close to the right, you won’t be able to hit over the magnificent South Oaks.

“When I first played No. 4, I didn’t think I was in the Valley,” Garcia said. “I was like ‘where did all these hills come from?’ It’s just an amazing hole.”

Rancho Viejo Golf Club, Rancho Viejo

20191023 RanchoViejoCourse IMG 8466

Rancho has a gem both on and away from the golf course.

The off-the-course gem is the Top Tracer driving range setup. It is a covered hitting area with monitor, televisions, a bar with food and there’s also music. The Top Tracer Range is owned by Top Golf. Golfers can set up a points competition, play a long drive or closest to the pin contest with friends and even set up the monitor to play Pebble Beach or St. Andrews.

“This is very unique – hardly anyone in the country has it,” said Golf Pro Don Keen, who is on his second stint at the course, working there first 25 years ago. “There are 11 golf courses you can play with a foursome like a scramble.

“You’re just hitting into the range but on the monitor, you’re hitting the fairways of Pebble Beach and it’s open to the public.”

Keen returned to help work some projects to improve the course and give it a new look. One of the holes that has completely taken a new look is No. 15, the par-4 315-yard dogleg that will challenge a golfer’s skill and mind.

“It is very picturesque,” Keen said. “It used to be a straight hole and now it’s a total change. We moved 15 palm trees from one side of the fairway to another, a fairway bunker, a big bern was added so the ball doesn’t run out of bounds. ... it’s a real nice hold.”

The golfer can play the dogleg or try to carry the lake and get close, or onto the green. The fairway is fairly narrow but was widened in areas (and made thinner in others).

“It’s a risk and reward hole,” Keen said. “Some of the bigger hitters like to carry the water, it’s just the corner of it. Others will play it safe – but it definitely makes you think.”

20191023 GOLF PHOTOS SOUTH PADRE ISLAND

South Padre Island Golf Club, Laguna Vista

Just the name South Padre Island Golf Course implies beauty and a great golf course and Bracy Wilson, and the course’s owners, are returning the course to where it once was, where it should be, and beyond.

While No. 3 is considered the signature hole, golf pro Bracy Wilson said, “just because of the water and to be able to see across to the island makes numbers four and five gems as well.”

No. 4 is a par-5 hole. Don’t get distracted by the beauty of this 525-yard hold that has a slight dogleg right (“It barely drifts back to the right,” Wilson said.) And don’t hit too far to the right because your ball is almost assuredly lost in the native area. You won’t find your ball and what you will find, you’ll want to keep away from.

No. 5 is a short par-4 at 296 yards. Don’t be deceived though. That same refreshing breeze coming across the Laguna that makes one feel great, is the same blistery wind that can make this short hold unreachable to even the strongest of hitters.

“You have to hit over an inlet and it’s a short hole,” Wilson said. “But the drive will make you or break you.

“But those are very scenic holes.”

Go HERE to vote online.

Taste of the Valley
Article Count:
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Wintertainters™

Click the Read More link below each Wintertainer™Booking Information, Music Samples, Images, Videos and more!

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Valley Star Awards
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