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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.

Bottomline Band

Genres: Country (new, old, classic), Rock, Disco, Pop, Funk, Tejano, Dance, Waltz's, Polkas, Line dances, etc..
Specialty: Playing what the crowd wants to hear!
Website: https://www.facebook.com/bottomlinergv/
Tour Dates: Check our Facebook
Videos: Check our Facebook
Music: Check our Facebook

Bottomline BandBottomline Band is a Country/Variety band from South Texas, playing together since they were kids. All members have their specialty instrument and also use their vocal talents. Band members include Chris Marshall, guitar; James DeBarry, fiddle; Jay Alvarado, bass; Steve Molina, Keyboard; and Peter Shotts on the drums.

You can find Bottomline Band in parks throughout the season and special events such as Party on the Boulevard.

Contact Info: Please contact Peter Shotts for bookings at 956-720-1606 or email to
thebottomlineband@gmail.com

Valley Star Awards honors Valleys top Wintertainers™

20190227 DavenDaphneIMG 5877Dave & Daphne named Entertainers of the Year

Music, comedy and an afternoon of entertainment by six of the Valley’s best entertainers highlighted the 2019 Valley Star Awards, presented by the Winter Texan Times and Robert and Billie Ferguson at Mission Bell Resort.

Winter Texans voted for entertainers in 11 different categories and the entertainer of the year awards were announced a la Oscar style in front of a full house of Winter Texans from across the Rio Grande Valley.

Read more: Valley Star Awards honors Valleys top Wintertainers™

Sundae + Mr. Goessl

Genres: Jazz, 20s to today
Specialty: Guitar, Vocal, Charm
Website: www.vintagejazzduo.com
Tour Dates: http://sundaeandmrgoessl.com/calendar-1?view=calendar&month=02-2019
Videos: www.youtube.com/sundaeandmrgoessl
Music: http://sundaeandmrgoessl.com/listen

Sundae goesslSundae + Mr. Goessl features award-winning vocalist Kate Voss (Earshot Magazine's Vocalist of the Year, two-time Seattle-Kobe Vocal Jazz Princess) and Seattle's most versatile virtuoso guitarist, Jason Goessl. This charming husband/wife duo incorporates humor, vintage style, interesting instrumentation, nostalgia and serious chops in their act. Awarded Best Jazz Act of 2017 from Seattle Weekly, this industrious couple has produced 5 albums since their inception in 2014 and enjoys "living the dream" as full-time musicians performing 300+ shows per year! Bringing back the sounds from a by-gone era and spreading the joy of jazz like Johnny Appleseed, this act an be described in a single word: delightful.

This duo features award-winning talent in their unique and charming act playing "Toe-tappin' tunes from the 20's to today"! Sundae recently received Vocalist of the Year AND was crowned Seattle's Vocal Jazz Princess (twice) but her "comedy" (uh...if you can call it that) has NOT received any awards. Backed up by virtuoso guitarist, Mr. Goessl, this couple has been on an open-ended tour since purchasing their RV in August 2018 -- and now the "Home Sweet Mobile Home Tour" comes to Southern Texas. Please enjoy this joyous act while they are in town! 

Contact Info:
vintagejazzduo@gmail.com
206-234-2690

Valley Star Awards Show is Feb. 20

2019 Williamson Branch 1The 2019 Valley Star Awards Show will feature a lineup of six of the top entertainers who are performing this season in the Rio Grande Valley parks and resorts. This year’s show features performances by Rusty Rierson, Helen Russell & Company, Tavie Spivey & Shake Rattle & Roll, Kai, Gene Turner (aka Mr. Pickpocket) and the Williamson Branch. All six performers are nominees for this year’s Valley Star Awards selections.

Read more: Valley Star Awards Show is Feb. 20

Valley Star Awards deadline nears

Rusty Rierson 2You have just six more days to cast your vote for your favorite entertainers as your votes determine the winners of the Valley Star Awards. The deadline to turn in your ballot is Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Each year we ask Winter Texans to help us choose the top entertainers who perform in the Winter Texan resorts in the Rio Grande Valley.

Now is your chance to decide who will receive the top awards at the annual Valley Star Awards Show, hosted by the Winter Texan Times and Robert and Billie Ferguson.

We will tally your votes and announce the winners at this year’s Valley Star Awards Show. The show will be held Feb. 20, from 1-4 p.m. at Mission Bell Resort.

Read more: Valley Star Awards deadline nears

Dave and Daphne

Genres: Country, Yodel
Specialty: Guitar and Vocals
Website: https://www.daveanddaphne.com/
Tour Dates: https://www.daveanddaphne.com/upcoming-shows
Videos: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dave+and+daphne
Music: https://www.daveanddaphne.com/music

Dave and DaphneDave Salyer has toured the world with Barbara Mandrell, performed for presidents at the White House and appeared on countless TV shows.

Roy Clark proclaimed Dave as one of the most fabulous guitarists on the planet and I quote, “I can't believe this guy; If I could get my hands on him, I'd kill him!!" Barbara Mandrell simply states, "Dave Salyer is the best guitarist I've ever had.”

Dave credits his uncles—(Bluegrass Legends and Grand Ole Opry Members) Jim & Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys, for his love of music and musical ability and talents.

Currently, Dave performs specific show dates with his uncle Jesse at The Grand Ole Opry. His solo repertoire ranges from “Orange Blossom Special” to “The Flight of the BumbleBee” and from “Wildwood Flower” to “The William Tell Overture”. He is also an accomplished vocalist, songwriter and humorist!! But most of all, Dave is just a regular guy with a God-given talent to touch people with his music!

Daphne Anderson is a beautiful female vocalist born and raised in Albany, Georgia. While attending college, she performed in pageants, talent contests, and churches.

She has toured with some of the greatest Southern Gospel Music Groups of all time!---The Bill Gaither Group, The Florida Boys, The Cathedrals, Rex Nelon, The Hinsons, and many others. The Southern Gospel Music Association voted her their Female Vocalist of the Year! It was during that time she made a BIG decision.

Shortly after graduating from Georgia Southwestern University, she moved to Nashville, TN to pursue a career in music. Daphne is best described as a cross between Shania Twain and Patsy Cline!

The crowds have absolutely fallen in love with her! She's gorgeous, quick witted, and super talented! Her recently recorded CD "One Of These Days" has been met with rave reviews across the U.S. and Canada. Her impressions of country music legends, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and the aforementioned Patsy Cline are phenomenal!! Add to that the ability to yodel out the Patsy Montana classic, "Cowboy's Sweetheart", captivate you with the smash hit from the movie "Titanic",--My Heart Will Go On", and bless you with a gospel classic, "The Lord’s Prayer", and you're just beginning to scratch the surface of her diverse talent.

Contact Info: 615-400-4939, oprywest@comcast.net

Taste of the Valley
Article Count:
18
Wintertainters™

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

Article Count:
29
Valley Star Awards
Article Count:
26

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