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New courses being developed at Riveridge.

Byline: JOHN CONRAD Register-Guard Sports Editor

Ric and Debbie Jeffries fulfilled personal dreams, and gave Eugene a regulation 18-hole public golf course within its city limits for the first time in nearly two decades, when they developed Riveridge Golf Course in the late 1980s.

Now they are dreaming again and believe there is another void to fill.

Construction is under way on a nine-hole executive course and a nine-hole pitch-and-putt course, both of which are expected to open next spring, on property directly across North Delta Highway from the existing Riveridge complex.

"When we started Riveridge we had goals of developing new players and including kids," Ric Jeffries said. "We've got a great junior program with 320 junior members. But statistics show that nationally we are losing new golfers because we're not getting them on the course to learn to enjoy the game."

What Riveridge now hopes to become is one-stop golf for public course players of all levels.

The existing Riveridge layout, a 6,256-yard, par-71 course, is well maintained and very playable for anyone with modest ability and experience. But Jeffries believes many neophytes still find its length intimidating and would prefer, along with accomplished players sometimes given a challenging alternative, a less time-consuming golf experience.

The pitch-and-putt course will consist of par-3 holes as short as 40 yards and no longer than 120. The executive course will include five par-4s from 265 to 320 yards and four par-3s from 90 yards to 180. The intriguing possibility for the executive course is that all but one of the par-4s will dogleg and play through trees and all will have two sets of tees that will make them seem like two different holes.

"On the front tees we want to give the player an opportunity to feel his shot is a little more open and inviting," Jeffries said. "Players who move back will be forced to hit a straighter shot and control how their ball starts on the hole, and they will be forced to judge distance to the dogleg and hit to the correct side of the fairway. They won't be able to just grab a driver and beat on it.

"Ultimately, the new golfer will have a chance to feel more comfortable getting on the golf course and enjoying themselves, while the good player will have a chance to work on his or her game without taking an entire day to do it."

The new courses, like the original Riveridge layout, are being designed by Jeffries. Now 51, he has been a PGA professional for more than 20 years and was indoctrinated to golf course design in Florida and later in North Carolina under well-known designer Bob Cupp. His talents in that area have been critical to the financial feasability of both the original Riveridge course and the expansion.

"I'm not even sure what they charge for golf design now," he said. "But I know it's a lot of money before anybody puts a shovel in the ground. It's a huge undertaking, but it's so rewarding and such a pleasure. But there are days I feel really good about it and days I wonder what I'm doing."

Debbie Jeffries handles the business side of the operation, which from the beginning has been anchored by a top-notch driving range facility, and there is an emphasis on instruction with Al Mundle, Kathy Martin, Jim Dodd and Andy Smith.

But Jeffries said a lot of people who come by for a taste of the game don't stick with it, and that it's vital they do.

"This is a good business but it's not a bonanza," Jeffries said. "If we were in a major metro area, it would be more of a financial success. But it's a lot of fun and we enjoy seeing people come out here happy and relax, enjoy themselves and accept a little bit of a challenge."

Shortly, Riveridge will offer a variety of ways to do that.

CAPTION(S):

Riveridge is expanding its golf facilities adjacent to the present 18-hole course.
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Title Annotation:Golf: Construction under way for executive, pitch-and-putt courses.; Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 7, 2002
Words:675
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