Where’s this diamond in the rough?

Only in San Francisco could the genteel sport of golf turn out to be so controversial, with its public courses the subject of intense debate about whether they should be left to endangered snakes or turned into boggy marshes.

So it’s fairly shocking that one of the courses not in the news would actually make news. And that would be the hidden greens at McLaren Park, known as Gleneagles Golf Course, which this week was named among the 20 best nine-hole municipal golf courses in the nation.

This is more than a bit of a surprise since Gleneagles is hard to find — even for people who’ve lived in San Francisco their entire lives — and even more so because McLaren Park has long suffered from its setting near a high-crime area where many golfers fear to tread.

But here comes one of the sports industry bibles, Golf World magazine, which flatly states that Gleneagles is the 17th-best nine-hole course in America. For local golfers, it’s like hooking left, finding a tree and somehow landing within inches of the cup.

“It’s amazing that they found us, but also that we rated so high,” said Gleneagles manager Tom Hsieh, who, before now, was better-known as a political consultant. “It just shows that San Francisco has some great public golf properties and we need to protect them and promote them.”

I don’t know the magazine’s rating system, but at $17 for a nine-hole round, affordability seems to be a factor. And, sh, no one knows.

Pleasant Hill girl needs transplant to survive cancer

Publicized donor drives have become so ubiquitous that they tend to pass without notice. Yet, the case of Natalie Nakatani reminds us of their real impact — one life at a time.

Nakatani, an 8-year-old from Pleasant Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia a year ago and underwent five rounds of chemotherapy. Her parents, Grant and Tammy Nakatani, were overjoyed when she went into remission. But it turned out to be a brief respite.

Last month, doctors discovered that the cancer had returned and Natalie needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. None of her family members are a match, so DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donor center, is holding two drives in the East Bay, one at Natalie’s elementary school and the other at UC Berkeley, which her parents attended.

“It’s one of those cases where her parents thought she was fine and now they are desperate to find a donor match,” said Jenell Vantrease, a spokeswoman for DKMS.

The donor drives will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 20 at Gregory Gardens Elementary School in Pleasant Hill and noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 22 at UC Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom.

For more information, visit www.dkmsamericas.org

Similarities between San Jose, Memphis

There’s never been much of a tie between Memphis, Tenn., and San Jose — one plays the blues, the other wears teal for its hockey team. But the cities are now linked on a bigger stage, the one occupied by the growing world of international sports.

It may seem like an oddity, but it’s much more real than the thought of the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders sharing a stadium. Local rivalries — especially ones driven by decades of personal jealousy — don’t transcend modern realities.

That’s not the case for tennis, which, outside of soccer, is sports’ most global game. And that’s why a little more than a year ago, the group that owns and operates the SAP Open tournament in San Jose opted to purchase the Memphis tournament that immediately follows it.

Why would Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment care about owning a tournament nearly 2,000 miles away? To understand that is to see one of the quirks in professional tennis, which, outside of nine major tournaments that require all  its top-ranked players to attend, allows its members to decide whether to play in South America, Europe or the United States during the lead-up to its premier events.

The ongoing SAP Open — which is the latest incarnation of one of the oldest tennis tournaments in the United States, and which this newspaper is one of many sponsors — has for years been followed by a similar one in Memphis. So the Silicon Valley group, which had been looking to purchase another tennis event, saw Memphis as a way to keep top-draw players such as Andy Roddick and rising U.S. star Sam Querrey in both tournaments.

In essence, the tournaments are now booking the same field for two weeks (though Memphis also has a women’s draw, which San Jose does not), allowing for a smooth transition into the beginning of the spring tennis season.

“It works because the players know they’re going to get a consistent field,” said Peter Lebedevs, Memphis’ tournament director. “They can sign up for both events, so we just bounce off of each other.”

No word as to whether San Jose will be offering barbecue and soul music. We’ll keep you posted.

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