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Commentary: RTO, the biggest little tournament that could
by Dan Eckles
Aug 05, 2013 | 1346 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A few tid bits from around the Truckee Meadows and Sparks sports scene ...

The 15th annual Reno-Tahoe Open wrapped up Sunday evening with 29-year-old Gary Woodland winning the event posting a score of 44 points in the modified Stableford scoring system. That score was good for a nine-point victory over Jonathon Byrd and gave Woodland a second career PGA Tour triumph. Woodland’s other career win came in March 2011 at the Transitions Championship.

It’s impressive that the RTO has lasted 15 years in an era when many tournaments don’t. What makes the run especially impressive is that the RTO has sustained its longevity without the help of a title sponsor for nearly all of its run. The fact that it’s hosted at pristine Montreux Golf and Country Club and played in Reno, a destination venue, definitely helps.

The downside to the RTO is that it has never been given a stand-along date on the PGA Tour. It’s always been played on the same weekend as a World Golf Championship event, meaning the top players in the world are never competing in Reno.

The upside is the RTO winner usually has a nice story about an up-and-coming player trying to break into the PGA Tour’s elite. The RTO gives northern Nevada golfers an underdog to cheer for, and not only here in Reno during tourney week, but throughout the year and corresponding tour events.

I remember attending RTO media days a month or two prior to the mid-summer tournament and hearing many a doom-and-gloom story about how it could not last without a title sponsor or a stand-alone date. And yet, at 15 years and counting, the RTO lives on.

Admittedly, the RTO does not boast the glamor of the U.S. Open but no non-major PGA Tour stop does. RTO tickets are relatively affordable. The players are shot makers with stellar talent and the event is held in a picturesque setting at Montreux. If you haven’t been, the RTO is definitely worth checking out.

•The Spanish Springs Cal Ripken League had another standout all-star showing as four of the league’s five all-star age divisions qualified for Pacific Regional Tournaments. The Spanish Springs 11u squad even won three regional games and reached the tournament semifinals, the latter is a first for any all-star team from the local league.

In addition, the Sparks Centennial Little League 11u all-star team won a rare state title for a local team. It would certainly appear that the Rail City has some talented 11-year-old baseball players.

Sparks Centennial, in its first year of hosting regular season softball leagues this past spring, also saw two teams, 12u and 14u, advance to regional tournaments.

•The Sierra Youth Football League began official practice for its fall league last week. The league was started just over a decade ago when organizers wanted to offer an alternative to Pop Warner.

The league has some definite positives. It keeps kids grouped into teams by area so kids end up playing with other kids in their same area of town. Teams are named after high schools. Thus young kids living in the Reed High zone, play on the Reed Raiders SYFL team.

What does seem a little crazy to me is the scheduling commitment. Many teams practice at least four times a week and play on Saturdays. Kids as young as age 5 can participate in the league. Now, you can debate the merits of whether kids as young as five need to be strapping on pads and playing full-contact football, but that’s a moot point to me.

It doesn’t seem very age appropriate to ask kids younger than 10, let alone five, to practice two hours a night four or more times a week. The regular season starts in late July and runs through mid October. Then teams can extend their season with a playoff run. Additionally, this year the SYFL allowed teams to begin optional conditioning practices multiple times a week in June.

This sounds a lot like a league headed toward burning kids out at a young age. And what’s the point, to help kids remember more plays? I pick 8-year-olds up after school and many of them can’t remember what they had for lunch or what they studied that day. I don’t think their football playbook retention is way different.

I’m not alone on many of these concerns. Some of the most successful prep coaches in the area agree.

•I did a story last month on a Spanish Springs high student who organized a fundraising campaign to benefit families that have a child with autism. Jennifer Martin has a younger sister who has autism and she wanted to help other families like hers. So, through her community service project with her martial arts academy, she organized the fundraiser.

Martin’s story was awesome. We hear a lot about the teens of this era, how many are lazy and apathetic, unengaged and selfish. Martin goes to show those are stereotypes, and none of which she fits.

Martin isn’t alone. There are many caring, generous, hard-working youths in our community and I salute and appreciate you all.

Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s Managing/Sports editor. He can be reached via email at deckles@dailysparkstribune.com
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