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Miller, Harper honored by NorCal PGA at Silverado

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Johnny Miller

World Golf Hall of Famer Johnny Miller, here in front of the mansion at Silverado Resort and Spa, was honored Monday at an event called the “The Langley — A Tribute to Legends.” Miller is one of the owners of Silverado.  Submitted photo

Johnny Miller has a busy work schedule.

As one of the owners of Silverado Resort and Spa, he re-designed the property’s North Course, which re-opened in the spring with new tees, new bunkering, and new fairway lines. He also added length to the course, making it 7,226 yards from the tournament tees, the number that is required in case Silverado lands a professional event one day.

As the lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, there are several weeks a year in which he’s on the road, covering PGA Tour events for the network.

There is also the job that Miller, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, has as a golf course designer.

“I was able to finally do a course all by myself,” Miller said of the North, a par-72 layout, which now features more movement and angles to the holes. “I’ve been involved in 34 courses, but this was really the first one I did everything on my own. I’ve had good people I’ve worked with, but for the first time I had a chance to really just do things that I wanted to do.

“The big thing is the bunkering — it’s just gorgeous. It’s a good course and it’s got good flexibility. But the greens are tough. There’s some tough putting out there — sneaky, tough putting. I’m really excited about the North.”

There is more work ahead for Miller at Silverado, which over the years has hosted both PGA Tour and Champions Tour events. Workers have been refurbishing the pond that comes into play on the ninth and 15th holes on the South Course. The course may one day be re-designed altogether.

“I’ve really been blessed to be able to very quietly do quite a bit of design work,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”

On Monday, Miller, a former Tour player, and RJ Harper, the senior vice president of golf at Pebble Beach Company, were honored by the Northern California PGA Foundation at the fourth annual “The Langley — A Tribute to Legends.” The Langley, a fundraising golf tournament and social event designed to honor the game’s legends where proceeds are donated to community programs, was held at Silverado. On Tuesday, teams of four amateurs and a PGA professional played in The Langley Pro-Am Golf Tournament on Silverado’s North Course.

Miller and Harper join an impressive list of past honorees, including Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Ken Venturi and the event’s namesake, Jim Langley, a former PGA Tour player and longtime head golf professional at Cypress Point Club in Monterey.

“Their participation gives the event the recognition needed so that we may continue to support worthwhile charitable organizations and educational scholarships,” said Chris Thomas, NCPGA executive director and COO. “Each year the goal is to impact more lives through golf.”

“The Bay Area truly has a wealth of golf talent — both on the competitive and business side. I continue to be impressed by the caliber of distinguished honorees who join us for this event,” said Langley.

Miller has had a distinguished career, winning both the 1973 U.S. Open and 1976 British Open. His father, Larry Miller, was a major influence in his development as a golfer. He also received instruction from John Geertsen, Sr.

“Through the PGA Tour and through my own Johnny Miller Junior Golf Foundation, I have always tried to exemplify the high standards of the game and our responsibility to give back to the community,” said Miller. “I am honored that I can help these tremendous organizations through the Langley and the NCPGA Foundation.”

Miller grew up in San Francisco and won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, then had a successful college career at BYU. As a 19-year-old amateur, he finished eighth at the 1966 U.S. Open. He turned pro in 1969.

In 1974, Miller won eight tournaments, the money title and the Player of the Year award. He won four more times in 1975.

“I was just lucky to grow up with such great courses,” said Miller, a 25-time winner on Tour. “I was able to really grow up with great players around me. There were so many good (Northern California) Tour players that came out of that era, that I sort of rode in their wake. It was a good group to follow. It really had a lot to do with how good a player I became, because of all those guys. We had an amazing run in Northern California. Of course, we’ve had good players since then, but not quite the volume that was at that time. It was a wonderful time to play golf in San Francisco and Northern California.

“Kenny Venturi was a pretty big influence on me, too, because I didn’t really know what a Tour pro really looked like until I was watching Kenny at Harding Park hit balls every evening when he was home.”

It was Miller’s father who instilled in Johnny that if you want to be the best, you’ve got to be willing to do what other players aren’t willing to do.

“Pretty much, that was the motto,” said Johnny. “I was blessed with a great father. He would make me hit balls in spots that you can’t believe — out the lips of the bunker, ice plant, made me hit left-handed. I’d be doing things that none of the other kids would do.”

It’s a goal to bring tournament golf back to Silverado, said Miller. The North Course, he said, is a good enough course to hold any championship, especially if you grow in the rough.

“Believe it or not, a lot of those people that were volunteers here are still champing at the bit to do it again,” Miller said. “Of course, Napa loves golf. Pretty much every Tour has already talked to me. I’m a little cautious, because the economy’s bad and we’ve just freshly finished the North. We’re taking our time, but within the next couple of years probably some things are going to start popping.”

Harper has seen the changes that have occurred at Silverado and said with Miller’s touch, it will be a restored, rejuvenated and reinvigorated facility like no other.

“That’s direct competition to Pebble Beach. But you know what? That’s great for golf,” said Harper. “We should be competing. We should be working hard to out-do each other and to make people want to come to Northern California and play golf at our great facilities. I wish Johnny the best here.”

As the senior VP of golf for Pebble Beach Resorts, Harper manages all golf operations at perhaps the premier luxury brand in America. His tenure there has stretched 25 years, with 11 in his current position.

“I feel so privileged to be a part of the Langley tradition and all the great work that the NCPGA Foundation does through its support of education and programs for the underserved,” said Harper.

He started as a marshal at Pebble Beach and worked his way to become shop assistant, shop manager and head professional, then became director of golf, overseeing all of the properties. Now he is at an executive level with cross-over responsibilities in other divisions within the company.

In 2010 he served as general chairman for the U.S. Open Championship. He is a decorated PGA professional, having received the NCPGA section’s Resort Merchandiser of the Year, Junior Golf Leader, and Professional of the Year awards.

“There’s no way you do it alone,” said Harper. “You do it in the company of great people, and I’ve had the privilege and the honor of meeting a lot of great people and working side by side with a lot of great people.”

CIG Insurance Group is the title sponsor of The Langley event. The proceeds support many golf programs and organizations.


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