Golfers can travel in style on this coach

A back injury forced Don Hamrick out of golf years ago and threatened to keep him away for good.
Then his wife, Joanne, took up the game and coaxed him into giving it another go.
“I was real leery,” says Hamrick, 65, who can trace his trepidation to three surgeries to repair three discs he shattered while working in the timber industry in Alaska.
“But that first round was great ... everything’s been downhill since, though,” he laughs. “I really enjoy golf, and with all these beautiful golf courses around, I thought, why don’t I put a coach together and do golf trips.”
With that as motivation, the owner of Northstar Pacific Coachways found a way to mix business with pleasure and provide upscale golf treats for groups that want to go in style.
Hamrick purchased a 45-foot motor coach about six months ago and had it customized by an outfit in Los Angeles. As per his design, it resembles a traveling lounge more than a bus.
Rather than rows of bench seats, it has pillowy leather sofas and chairs strategically arranged for socializing and abutted by end tables. Above them are three high-definition, flat-screen TVs with satellite reception and surround sound. The floors are granite tile and the counter tops Corrian. There’s a full galley, two refrigerators, a large cooler, a microwave oven, hot and cold running water and flush toilets.
The back lounge has a table big enough for eight people and is perfect for cards or other games.
Hamrick provides the driver and an escort and stocks up on complimentary snacks and beverages of the travelers’ choice.
There’s seating for 24, and the cost essentially is $100 per seat for transportation, or $2,400.
There are other ways to operate, too. Hamrick has organized a trip next Saturday to Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls at $175 per person. That price includes greens fees, carts and range balls, says Hamrick, and it was three-quarters full at week’s end.
Jason Stranberg, a partner in Adroit Construction, recently used the executive coach for an excursion to Salmon Run Golf Course in Brookings for some of his employees and associates.
“He’s got a nice ride there,” says Stranberg. “It’s a nice way to travel if you’re doing something around the state.”
Rather than putting a dozen people in separate cars to get over there, they all had quality time together. It was the perfect setting for the players to recount their rounds, something for which golfers are notorious.
“If you play Salmon Run, it’s all about how many balls did you lose or where did you lose this ball or that ball,” says Stranberg of the tight, winding layout. “It was a really good day.”
He considers the cost of the coach reasonable.
“You could certainly do it cheaper,” says Stranberg. “It’s like the difference between flying coach or business class. It’s a choice in how you want to do something.”
Hamrick has been in the coach business for 35 years, gravitating to that after working in the Seattle police department.
It was during a respite from the coach business that he lived on a boat in Alaska and worked as a foreman in a timber yard. He injured himself jumping from a loader to uneven terrain in the yard.
“I was told I’d never be able to sit long enough to do anything and wouldn’t even be able to pick up a paper clip,” he says.
Through a specialist in Texas, he learned to cope with pain — “mind over matter,” he says — and eventually got back to golf.
He plays in the men’s league at Laurel Hill in Gold Hill and has a handicap in the mid-20s.
When he arranges trips, he makes sure to get himself a tee time.
“I get a chance to enjoy one of my passions and at the same time make people happy so they can enjoy their experience,” he says.
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CENTENNIAL GOLF COURSE went to great lengths to challenge players in the men’s and women’s Oregon mid-amateur tournaments last weekend.
The set-up wasn’t so bad when it came to the height of the rough and the speed of the greens, says Brad Bills of Medford, who was more familiar with the course than most in the field. But the distance the ball had to travel was foreboding.
“I played tees I’ve never played before,” said Bills, whose rounds of 73 and 75 for a 148 put him at 2 over par and tied for 13th place.
The course played to a par 73 because the 18th hole was converted from its usual par 4 to a par 5 by the Oregon Golf Association, which determined hole locations, tee placements and the like.
“They definitely had it set up long,” says Bills. “About 14 of the 18 tees were all the way back on the black tees. I’d never seen them before. They don’t set it up that way for the city tournament and definitely not for fundraisers. It played tough. You had mid-irons to greens that you generally hit short irons into, but it was a good challenge.”
The greens were at a comfortable speed — not scary fast — and the rough wasn’t so high that it slowed play to a crawl.
All in all, says Bills, Centennial “represented itself very well.”
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LOCAL PLAYERS WHO may have been shut out of the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament in the past because it has filled up quickly might want to take this opportunity to get in the 79th edition. The popular event is held the week leading up to Labor Day — Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 — at Rogue Valley Country Club and caters to all levels of players.
As many tournament organizers have found, fields have been slow to fill, in part because of rising travel costs. The SOGT is in the same boat, with 134 openings in the three men’s divisions and 21 in the women’s.
A full field for what is billed as the largest single-site match-play tournament in the U.S. would be 416 players. The breakdown is 144 men’s open spots, 112 for junior-senior men’s, 112 for senior men’s and 48 for women.
For more information, call 772-4050 or go to www.rvcc.com.
Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

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