Kevin Merrill: Graduating into a different future

Kevin Merrill

Labor Day weekend is sneaking up on us, and with it the end of what we used to think of as summer. This year’s winegrape harvest is off to a slow start, we are probably two weeks away from the sugar levels being high enough to really get going. A few warm days might speed things up a little.

I’ve noticed a nice breeze early in the evenings lately, almost feeling a little like Fall. In the back of my mind, I know September and October can bring some of the hottest weather we have along the Central Coast, time will tell.

Last weekend we traveled over to Visalia to help celebrate my sister-in-law Carol’s birthday. We were lucky that the temperatures stayed down in the low 90s for our visit. Quite a few members of my wife’s family were coming over for the party on Saturday evening, so we stayed with my wife’s cousins John and Martha Caudle.

John and Martha are both retired but keep very active and play quite a bit of golf at the Visalia Country Club. When they heard we were coming over they asked if Clayton and I wanted to play a round of golf before the birthday party began. They ask us every time we get over that way, this time I said yes, even though I haven’t played any golf in 10 or 12 years.

I thought I would just have to make time and go out to the driving range and hit a few buckets of balls before heading over to Visalia for the weekend. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, and I barely made time to go into Santa Maria to buy a few boxes of balls, knowing that I was pretty good at losing at least 2-3 balls during my past golf outings and I wasn’t sure about Clayton.

I dug my clubs out from the closet and dusted them off, took a few clubs outside on our lawn and made a few practice swings, I was happy I could remember how to hold the clubs and found a relatively new golfing glove inside my bag as well. Clayton was all set as he has been golfing for 2-3 years and tries to go out with some of his friends to play every two to three weeks or so.

Our tee-off time at the Visalia Country Club was 1:30. It was a beautiful afternoon with a slight breeze and the temperature hovering around 90 degrees. The course was full, with every available golf cart being used — I think folks were anxious to get out and enjoy the weather as the daytime temperatures were in the 105 degrees range every day for the past few weeks over there.

We hit a few balls on the driving range before heading to the first tee, Clayton and John’s son Nolan teamed up leaving John and I to follow. Each team played best ball and mercifully my first shot in front of the clubhouse went right down the middle of the fairway, not as far as I would have liked, but at least it was straight. John kept us in the game more or less, Clayton and Nolan had a pretty respectable day.

We had a great time and I only lost one ball, not bad for taking 10 years off. Clayton and I might have to sneak in a round or two before harvest begins.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at