About Kirk

About: Kirk Kenney

I first gripped a baseball at the age of six. The game has had its grip on me ever since. I enjoy watching and writing about Little League, high school and college as much or more as the major leagues. I would be consumed by golf if it wasn’t for this voice in my head whispering “pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage.” I enjoying reading a good book, but I’m more likely to watch a good movie. I was born and raised in San Diego. If not, I’m sure I would have moved here.

What would you do on your ideal San Diego Day?

I’d join three of my buddies at sunrise in the first group off the tee at Torrey Pines, then head up the coast a few miles to enjoy Mexican food for lunch at Las Olas in Cardiff. We’d drop down to Del Mar after that, grab our Boogie boards (waiting an hour after eating, of course, before going in the water) and catch a few waves, then wash off the sand and head downtown to Petco Park to catch a Padres game.

What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

There’s no way to pick just one. It doesn’t get much better here than playing a round of golf — especially a twilight round where the last putt falls just as the sun sets — because you can do it year-round. My wife and I also enjoy kayaking on Mission Bay or riding bikes along Crown Point Shores.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine?

Burger and a beer. Make that a root beer. Nothing beats Mug Old Fashioned poured over two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Latest music purchases for my iPod player are...

Crazy Heart: The Weary Kind (movie soundtrack)

Lady Antebellum: Need You Now

Eagles: Long Road Out of Eden

San Diego Golf: From Sunrise to Sunset

There are more than 90 golf courses in San Diego County, which provides a wide variety of golfing experiences. Here are three to consider:

Maderas Golf Club

Best course to enjoy the sunrise
I was in a foursome for a winter round at Maderas two years ago in which we were the first group off the tee. The temperature gauge in my car read 18 degrees as I drove into the parking lot. I was wearing shorts, which says something about my state of mind while getting dressed at an early hour. I remember willing the sun to rise over the mountain just east of the course. It sure took it’s time that day, but it did finally peek out. Was I ever glad to see it. The temperature would rise more than 40 degrees before we putted out on the 18th hole. If only my game had warmed to the occasion as well.

Torrey Pines Golf Course

Best course to enjoy the sunset
In January, I watched visitors staying at the Torrey Pines Hilton snap pictures of the sunset from a patio off the lobby. If they had planned ahead they could have arranged a tee time at the Torrey Pines Golf Course and been in an even better position to see. The first tee from both the North and South courses points golfers directly toward the ocean. Afternoon golfers keep one eye on the sundial, watching the sun sink slowly in the west as they sink putts. A perfect finish is walking off the 18th hole just as the sun disappears. Even if you don’t make it to the finish, there’s no better spot to end the day.

Mt. Woodson Golf Club

Best course to enjoy fireworks
Mt. Woodson’s location in Ramona offers some of the best views in the county. It can be almost distracting, which is a concern on a course that demands attention to shot-making to keep from going out of bounds. Here’s the plan: Make an afternoon tee time and be mindful during the round of where a good vantage point is to look west over the rest of the San Diego County. Afterward the round, drive to that spot and enjoy the show(s). If you get the golf cart back a little late, they’ll understand. In fact, maybe you can even work something out ahead of time for them to send up a signal flare for you to make your way back to the cart barn.


Insider’s Tip: Four Courses to Enjoy a Twilight Round

With summer here and days lasting longer it is possible to get in a full day at the beach, the zoo or some other San Diego activity and still have time for a round of golf. Twilight and super twilight rates make it even more attractive. Here are four suggestions for quality courses with outstanding afternoon rates:

The Vineyard at Escondido provides a nice variety of holes tucked amid beautiful mountain and valley surroundings. They have a quality driving range and putting greens to get warmed up, the course has a good variety of holes and the scenery — especially on the back nine — enhances the experience. The par-70, 6,531-yard layout challenges from the outset, with a tight chute off the first tee and water waiting on the next two holes.
Rates: Super twilight begins at 4 p.m. and is $20 weekdays/$25 weekends (including cart).

Twin Oaks in San Marcos is a par-72, 6,535-yard course that features elevation changes and water elements — including two signature water features — that create challenges to grab the attention as much as the natural beauty that surrounds the course. The course provides some holes that give drives a wide berth, but also includes some target-oriented holes to make you dial it back a little. Undulating greens further the challenge.
Rates: Super twilight is $25 weekdays/$30 weekends (including cart).

DoubleTree features a par-72, 6,428-yard course where golfers who enjoy hitting the driver for everything it’s worth off the tee – but don’t always know where their drive is going – will be glad the course wasn’t wrapped around a housing tract. Errant drives frequently find themselves on another fairway rather than in someone’s back yard. There are rolling hills that make for a few blind shots, especially approaching three or four of the greens. Bermuda grass is featured on both the fairways and greens, which are well maintained. There is water to hit over off the first tee on the Arnold Palmer-managed course, but sand is the most prevalent hazard to avoid.
Rates: There is a special after noon for $29 (Monday through Thursday) that includes two drinks. Super twilight starts at 3:30 and is $20 weekday/$25 weekends (including cart).

Reidy Creek’s tee boxes, fairways and greens are all well manicured and a variety of challenges make the par-54, 2,582-yard course seem like big-time golf on a small scale. The city-owned course in Escondido features every challenge imaginable on a layout that takes advantage of the natural terrain to ensure that each hole is different from the one before it. The 14th hole is the longest on the course, measuring a testy 194 yards over a dry riverbed to a tiered green. The 18th green has water to the right and nature area to the left in a challenge to the end.
Rates: $10 weekdays/$12 weekends (cart is $10 extra, but the course is very walkable).


San Diego Golf: Give Dad His Day in the Sun

Sure, you can give dad another tie. But why not give this a try? Here are three San Diego County courses offering something special on Sunday for Father’s Day:

Cottonwood Golf Club
Fit in a round of golf either before or after a special Father’s Day brunch from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm that includes everything from scrambled eggs, country potatoes, buttermilk pancakes and fresh fruit to corn on the cob, BBQ chicken and ribs and carved Tri-Tip. The Ivanhoe Course, which measures nearly 7,000 yards, and The Lakes Course, which is just under 6,600 yards, are both challenging and enjoyable layouts. Although Ivanhoe is longer, it is easier to avoid trouble there than The Lakes, which lives up to its name with water coming into play at some point on more than half the holes. That includes the par-3 16th, which features an island green. The brunch is $19.99 for adults ($16.99 for seniors). Call 619-442-9891 (ext. 3) to make a reservation.

The Grand at Del Mar
Fathers staying at The Grand on Saturday or Sunday can take advantage of an offer to pay for 18 holes but play unlimited golf for the day. The special includes a custom club fitting and a complimentary logo golf hat. The Tom Fazio-designed course measures 7,160 yards at the tips and features rolling hills, lush surroundings and beautiful views, enough to make any golfer want to head right back out after putting out on the 18th. Or after a bite to eat, anyway. The Grand also will be featuring a three-course Sunday brunch ($45) from 10:00 am to 3:00 p.m. Room and golf reservations are available at 888-314-2030.

Maderas Golf Club
Playing the Johnny Miller-designed course, which measures nearly 7,200 from the tips, is a reward in itself, but on Father’s Day there’s also a $25 gift card when dad and a guest play. A brunch ($32.95) with salads, a BBQ station and desserts is available from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm. If dad can’t make it to the course that day, then there’s the Ultimate Father’s Day gift package. It includes five one-on-one golf lessons with PGA pro John Darling, a custom driver fitting and a new TaylorMade R11 driver. Valued at $1,000, the package is priced at $499. Call the golf shop at 858-451-8100 for tee times or gifts.


San Diego Golf: Chart Your Own Course

There are more than 90 golf courses in San Diego County, which provides a wide variety of golfing experiences. Here are three to consider:

Barona Creek Golf Club

Best course for a guys’ getaway
The Barona Creek Golf Club offers everything a guy could want — an outstanding golf course, good food, gaming and lodging. Golfweek Magazine recently rated Barona No. 4 on its 2011 list of the Top 10 California Courses. Built on the Barona Indian Reservation (approximately 30 minutes east of downtown San Diego), the 7,448-yard, par-72 course was designed to incorporate the contours of the land and allow golfers to experience the natural surroundings. Lakes and ponds are fed by natural streams and come into play frequently, as do many of the 100 strategically-placed bunkers. The bent-grass greens set the course apart from most others in Southern California. The Barona Casino is among the nicest in the region, and it includes 11 restaurants that cover a wide range of dining experiences. The property also includes a 400-room hotel, so you can stay just a few steps from all of the action.

Coronado Golf Course

Best course for the money
A Golf Digest writer called Coronado Golf Course “a gem I consider the best value in the United States.” The course is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of San Diego. The front nine at the par-72, 6,590-yard course features views of the downtown San Diego skyline, boats in San Diego Bay and, of course, the Coronado Bridge. The sights on the back nine include the Hotel Del Coronado as well as boats sailing in and out of Glorietta Bay. The value comes from greens fees of $30 for weekdays and $35 on weekends for both locals or out of town visitors. Greens fees are so reasonable because the land is leased from the Port District and Coronado is limited contractually in what it can charge golfers.

Presidio Hills Golf Course

Best course to take kids or beginners
All of the holes at Presidio Hills Golf Course are shorter than 100 yards — the longest is the 94-yard fifth hole — making Presidio the perfect place for a family outing or introducing someone to the game. There is enough length for kids and beginners to take full swings, but its short enough that they’ll get to the green without too much effort. On the green, putting offers a different test of skill and the accomplishment of getting in the hole. Pace of play is such that groups won’t feel rushed, allowing time to snap a couple of pictures or offer some instruction. Even if you take your time, it’s easy to play a round in less than two hours. The course borders Old Town, which is a good place to find lunch or dinner afterwards.


Cox Celebrity Championship: Romo Takes Trophy

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo watches one of his tee shots take flight in the Cox Celebrity Championship at Morgan Run Resort and Club.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has guided his share of fourth-quarter comebacks, so he’s confident of winning late in the contest as long as there’s still time left on the clock. Or, in the case of golf, with holes still remaining to be played.

Tony Romo hoists the 2011 trophy after winning the Cox Celebrity Championship.

With three holes left in Sunday’s final round of the Cox Celebrity Championship at Morgan Run Resort and Club, Romo knew he had a chance. And he made the most of it at the par-5 16th hole with a 15-foot eagle putt. That made the difference in a two-shot victory for Romo (70-67—137) over former NHL player Dan Quinn (72-67—139). First-round leader Mark Mulder (67-74—141) slipped to third place. NFL Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk (70-72—142) was fourth, followed by former major leaguers Rick Rhoden (71-72—143) and Vince Coleman (69-74—143).

Romo couldn’t help ribbing New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the tournament host, when he was presented with the winner’s trophy.

“It’s funny,” said Romo. “The only thing sweeter than this is when we went down to New Orleans and handed the Saints their first loss a couple of years ago.

“Just kidding.”

Brees accepted the jab good-naturedly, especially after Romo turned around and donated his $25,000 winner’s check to the Brees Dream Foundation. That increased the total donated to the foundation this week to $135,000.

Romo, who started the round three shots off the lead of Mulder, strung together several pars on the front nine to stay in contention. Four one-putts with his belly putter after the turn moved Romo up the leaderboard before the eagle landed him in the lead. Romo, who annually attempts to qualify for the U.S. Open, has won his share of these celebrity golf events. That said, the Cowboys quarterback will have no trouble keeping himself occupied over the summer if the NFL lockout drags on.


Cox Celebrity Championship: Everybody Loves Ray

Actor/comedian Ray Romano hits his opening drive in the Cox Celebrity Championship at Morgan Run Resort and Cub in Rancho Santa Fe.

Ray Romano is two swings into his round Saturday in the Cox Celebrity Championship at Morgan Run and everyone can see he is already having swing thoughts.

After getting a big hand from the gallery with a big drive off the first tee (though the shot landed in the adjacent fairway), Romano’s second shot finds a greenside bunker. As he grabs his sand wedge from his bag, Romano is approached by a young boy who asks the actor/comedian to sign a DVD collection of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Ray Romano blasts out of a sandtrap on the first hole at Morgan Run.

Romano obliges, then heads to the sandtrap. After sizing up his shot, Romano swings and gets too much of the ball, knocking it well over the green. “Kid probably wants to give me the autograph back now,” cracks Romano, who needed several more strokes to finish the first hole.

Fans expect to see spectacular shots from players such as first-round leader Mark Mulder. The former pitcher shot a 4-under 67, two shots better than former outfielder Vince Coleman. NFL Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo were another shot back at 70 entering Sunday morning’s final round.

Romano? He fared better after carding the triple bogey 8 on the first hole, but still was well behind the leaders with an 88. Unlike the others, the pressure on Romano isn’t to impress the gallery with his shot-making but his wise-cracking.

“If I hit a bad shot, that’s what they’re expecting,” said Romano. “They know I’m a hacker.”

Golf is a difficult enough game without being interrupted between shots to sign autographs and pose for pictures, but Romano is more accommodating than most because he knows it’s what fans are expecting at these charity events. It does put added pressure on his play, however.

“When I’m over the ball,” said Romano, “I have two thoughts — I have the swing thought and the what-am-I-going-to-joke-about-after-my-swing thought.”

Romano was quick with a quip when a shot went awry — entertaining the one- to two-dozen fans who followed him throughout his round — but he is serious about his golf. In fact, last year at this event Romano was working with swing coach Hank Haney to improve his game. Romano’s goal is to break 80 for the first time in his life.

“It hasn’t happened yet,” said Romano, adding, “This is the course I’ve come the closest.”

A three-foot putt on the 18th hole was all that stood between Romano and a 79 at Morgan Run a couple of years ago. “And I missed it,” said Romano, who has been so busy with work that he hasn’t had many opportunities the past year to pursue his goal.

“I’ve been playing 30 years, so I’ve had my chances,” said Romano. “I don’t get enough chances (now) to groove a game to get to that point.”

So it will be left for art to imitate life. Romano stars now on the show “Men of a Certain Age,” where he plays Joe, a party store owner with aspirations of playing golf on the Senior Tour. We’ll find out how things go for Joe beginning June 1 when the TNT series resumes new episodes.

“That’s a big part of his life,” Romano said, referring to Joe’s quest to reach the Tour. “That’s going to be in the next six episodes that that’s going to raise its head. He has to face an unfulfilled dream. He’s putting it off and in denial and scared that he will fail and can’t do it. He doesn’t want to face the dream being extinguished, so it takes a little something to give him the push to actually go out and do it.”


Cox Celebrity Championship Swings Into Action

NFL Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk putts for a birdie on the 18th hole at Morgan Run in the Cox Celebrity Championship.

Scene and heard around the course on the opening day of the Cox Celebrity Championship at Morgan Run Resort and Club in Rancho Santa Fe:

Jerry Rice practices sand shots before his opening round.

— The atmosphere for this charity event is relaxed and fun, giving fans an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with dozens of former and current players from across several sports. And while there is a $100,000 purse at stake, no one is here trying to make money to meet the monthly mortgage payment. It is interesting, however, to observe contrasts in players’ approaches to the game. Take former NFL wide receivers Jerry Rice and Andre Reed, for instance. Rice, who has aspirations of playing golf professionally, already had his game face on an hour before his noon tee time. Walking from the driving range to another practice area to work on some sand shots, Rice waved off a fan wanting to make some small talk. “Not right now, man,” Rice said. “I’m warming up.” Reed, meanwhile, was encouraging spectators to speak up. “It’s quiet around here,” Reed said before teeing off on the back nine. “You all need to start talking.” After a solid drive, Reed signed several autographs before getting into his golf cart and driving off. Looking at one action photo of himself presented for his signature, the former Buffalo Bills receiver said, “That’s a good picture there. I might have scored on that one.”

— NFL Hall of Fame place-kicker Jan Stenerud, who played the majority of his 20-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs, was greeted by a number of well-wishers and autograph seekers as he prepared to tee off on the 10th hole. Asked one fan: “How’s your leg doing? Said Stenerud: “The leg is fine. My back isn’t.”

— Actor Jack Wagner, the event’s defending champion, knows how Stenerud feels. Wagner was seen at the course but not on the course. Seems he tweaked something in his back and was forced to miss the first day of play. Sounds like he may need a trip to General Hospital for further examination.

— Speaking of place-kickers, former Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke is playing in the event. His presence was duly noted by one of the two volunteers seated at the driving range. One gentleman was very impressed with the extensive background information provided on the players in the tournament. Reading through the bios, one said to the other: “I didn’t know Rolf Benirschke hosted the Wheel of Fortune in 1989.”

Joe Morgan and Rick Rhoden visit on the practice green.

— Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan wasn’t having much luck finding the bottom of the cup on the putting green when former pitcher Rick Rhoden, a four-time champion in this event and runner-up last year, walked up and provided a welcome distraction. Morgan greeted Rhoden with a big grin and some small talk, then watched with envy as Rhoden stroked putt after putt into the hole.

— There’s one in every crowd. Positioned off the side of the green on the par-3 18th hole was a fan who after each tee shot for one particular group shouted: “Get in the hole.” To which another fan said as an aside, “I wish that guy would get in a hole.”


Pro Kids Golf Academy Gives Players a Certain Glow

Fluorescent tubing lights up the club of a youngster playing during the Pro Kids 24-hour Golf-a-Thon at Colina Park Golf Course.

Pro Kids Golf Academy has held a special place in my heart since it was created 17 years ago. Pro Kids partnered with the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified School District in 1994 and moved into the Colina Park Golf Course in City Heights to bring golf to inner-city kids. Pro Kids began with ambitious goals, its mission to “challenge underserved youth to excel in life by promoting character development, life skills and values through education and the game of golf.”

Playing partners are appropriately still with a member of their group addressing the ball on the tee.

Pro Kids has not only reached its goals, it has exceeded them. By leaps and bounds. Thousands of kids have had their lives positively impacted by the organization. Some kids have gone on to play golf in high school and college, but it has made an even greater impact on them in the classroom and other aspects of life.

Pro Kids’ initial success led it to becoming one of the models for The First Tee (Pro Kids became The First Tee of San Diego), an international organization with a similar mission. The par-3 Colina course and facility has been transformed into a showplace since Pro Kids took over. The condition of the course now rivals some of the county’s full-size courses and it is treated with pride and respect by its young players. In 2001, a 7,000-square foot Learning Center was constructed with the assistance of the Building Industry Association, providing an environment conducive to studying and learning. Continue reading


Presidio Provides a Little History Lesson, a Lot of Fun

Presidio Hills Golf Course in Old Town opened in 1932, making it one of the oldest par-3 courses in the United States.

For those accustomed to playing a full-length championship golf course, Presidio Hills Golf Course may not seem like much at first glance. But dismissing it would be a big mistake.

“It’s a special place,” said Presidio head golf professional Paul Bush. “There’s a lot of history here.”

Presidio is one of the oldest par-3 courses in the country. It was built in 1932 under the direction of notable golf course architect William Park Bell, who didn’t make a hole over 100 yards — the 94-yard fifth hole is the longest — but did use the hollows and hills to provide a challenging short-game experience for advanced golfers without discouraging beginners.

A young golfer tees off on Presidio’s 39-yard first hole.

The clubhouse, known as La Casa de Carrillo, is a registered Historical Landmark. Home to Josefa Carrillo after being built in 1802, it is the oldest adobe dwelling in San Diego. Even if you’re in a hurry to get on the course, make sure to spend a few minutes reading the newspaper clippings on the wall. You’ll be interested to learn about the course’s history as well as the notable players whose footsteps you’re following.

The roots to San Diego’s renowned junior golf program run through Presidio. And, in fact, the course hosted some of the best junior golfers in the world from 1968-2002 in the 10-and-under flight of the Junior World Golf Championships. Phil Mickelson won a title there in 1980, Tiger Woods won in both 1984 and 1985 and Lorena Ochoa won in 1990, ’91 and ’92.

Bush said Mickelson still brings his children out to play the course now and then. Memories no doubt bring Mickelson back, but the relaxed pace of play is what appeals to many golfers.

“A lot of boyfriends bring their girlfriends,” said Bush. “And, of course, families. This is a huge family place. Our goal is to share it with people, get them here and get the course back to where it should be.”

The city-owned course was operated by the Abrego family for more than 70 years. It fell into disrepair over the past decade under different management. New general manager Justine Lee has been the driving force behind improvements to get the course back in shape. He had the 11th, 12th and 13th holes rerouted, the tee boxes improved and greens redone, fresh signage put in place and some equipment replaced, all indications of the course again being cared for. Bush is making an effort to expand play for tournaments and special groups, but what he really enjoys is introducing kids to the course. Junior clinics and lessons and summer classes are available to local kids as well as those visiting from out-of-town with their parents. Information is available by calling the course at 619-295-9476 or going to the Presidio Hills website.

A grand opening party was held by the new management at Presidio on Saturday to reintroduce the course to the community. Among the children and families enjoying the afternoon during Saturday’s grand opening party were a couple of tourists from Phoenix. Joseph and Ann Lemaitre’s visit to Presidio Park for 18 holes in the afternoon seemed as important as the one they had planned later in the day to PETCO Park to watch the Phillies and Padres for nine innings.

“We really enjoy the course,” said Joseph Lemaitre. “We try to play here whenever we come to town.”


DoubleTree Offers Breakfast Buffet, Golf Galore

DoubleTree's first hole is an uphill par-4 over water off the tee. Nothing like starting your round with a challenge.

Maybe there’s no such a thing as a free lunch. But how about a full buffet breakfast that comes with unlimited golf? That’s what’s being offered at the DoubleTree Golf Resort, where golfers can enjoy breakfast anytime from 6:30 am to 10:00 am before playing 18 holes (cart included). Then play again. And again?

I’m always looking for a deal and this is one of the best I’ve seen in some time. It’s only $39 Monday through Thursday ($45 on Friday, $65 on Saturday, $55 on Sunday), which is relatively inexpensive simply for 18 holes of golf. Throw in breakfast, free replay and also use of the DoubleTree’s practice facility and I’m in.

DoubleTree, located in North San Diego County just off the Carmel Mountain Road exit from Interstate-15, features a par-72, 6,428-yard course. Bermuda grass is featured on both the fairways and greens, which are well maintained. There is water to hit over off the first tee on the Arnold Palmer-managed course, but sand is the most prevalent hazard to avoid.

Golfers who enjoy hitting the driver for everything it’s worth off the tee – but don’t always know where their drive is going – will be glad the course wasn’t wrapped around a housing tract. Errant drives frequently find themselves on another fairway rather than in someone’s back yard. There are rolling hills that make for a few blind shots, especially approaching three or four of the greens, but golfers will be loaded with course knowledge by the time they return for a replay. Another thing to be mindful of is where to position the ball off the tee because some of the fairways slope toward the freeway.

A young golfer practices his chipping while his friends work on getting out of the sand at DoubleTree

Here’s an insider’s tip: Replays are subject to availability, so make an early tee time that will allow you to begin your replay between 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, which is the course’s slowest time of the day (It gets busier at 1:00 pm when member’s club players begin teeing off). Bonus tip: For those who sleep through breakfast, there is a special after noon for $29 (Monday through Thursday) that includes two drinks.

Here’s a link to the DoubleTree golf website. Golf and/or hotel reservations can be made by calling 858-672-9100 or 800-222-8733.