June 1, 2016
Kirk Baxter: Re-Living Poppy Hills Opening Day June 1, 1986
Auburn resident Kirk Baxter just wanted to relive the moment one more time.
On Wednesday, Baxter, a former PGA Tour member, teed off on the first hole of the new Poppy Hills Golf Course for the first time.
But it was the timing of the occasion that really mattered.
On June 1, 1986, Baxter was one of four who teed off on the first hole to celebrate the grand opening of the original Poppy Hills.
Thirty years later, Baxter, who’s suffering from a terminal heart condition, got the other shot at glory he’d been hoping for.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be back,” said Baxter, who has 11 stents and two balloons in his heart. “I picked the perfect day to come out.”
At the 1986 opening, Baxter was surrounded by among others Clint Eastwood, then-NCGA Chief Executive Officer John Zoller and numerous other NCGA dignitaries including then-President Paul Pugh.
This time around, he was joined by good friends Peter Lubkinsky, Rudy Danzinger and Jeff Trager.
What was dubbed the ‘30th Anniversary Group’ had hoped to tee off at 7 a.m., the time when Baxter helped christen the original Poppy Hills. They’d have to push their tee time back to the afternoon, however, after Trager, a well-known Bay Area music promoter, joined Giants Hall of Famer and friend Orlando Cepeda in celebrating Opening Night for Vallejo’s semi-pro baseball team late Tuesday.
The time difference didn’t matter much to Baxter. It was all about the moment.
“After 15 heart surgeries, this is absolutely a blessing. To come down here and support the NCGA for all these years is nothing short of pure gratitude,” Baxter said. “The NCGA has been the epitome of golf organizations for amateurs since I’ve been in the business, going back to 1971.”