Anyone driving along I-15 coming to or from St. George has seen it, reaching out like a beacon to the wayward golfer.
It’s called Paradise, and it’s aptly named.
For several years now I’ve driven that stretch of the freeway and for years I’ve noticed the Paradise Golf Resort in Fillmore, essentially the midway point between the Top of Utah and the bottom. Even before I knew former Weber State men’s basketball coach Ron Abegglen ran the place, I wondered about it.
I mean, shoot, it’s right there. You can see if from the freeway. As someone who’s been hacking up golf courses for 30 years, I’ve always wanted to stop, but two specific reasons — No. 1, the wife; No. 2, the kids — kept me from exploring it.
Well, earlier this month, while driving back from a family reunion in St. George, I finally put my foot down. Granted, my wife wasn’t along for this trip and my only other passenger was my 21-year-old son, Steve. Still, I put my foot down and said, “Son, we’re stopping in Fillmore to play golf. That OK with you?”
It was a rhetorical question.
We stopped late in the afternoon, not long after coach Abegglen and his crew had put the finishing touches on a senior tournament there.
At 75, “Coach A” looked great. It’s easy to see the man still enjoys being around athletics, still loves competition. And running Paradise Resort obviously scratches that itch.
He didn’t take up golf until he was in college, playing basketball at BYU. A teammate’s father-in-law send along a 5-iron and some golf balls, just to give the guys something to do away from the court.
“We couldn’t hit it,” Abegglen said with a chuckle. “By the end of our sophomore year, we were playing a lot of golf, boy.”
He’s been hooked ever since, although let’s be honest, coaching basketball in Alaska and later at Weber State didn’t leave a lot of time for hitting 5-irons.
But there’s no doubting the Abegglens are a golfing family, and have been for years.
I guess that’s why Ron smiles from ear to ear when talking about the game and especially Paradise, which opened in 2001.
“We get about 70 percent of our play off the highway,” he said.
On the day we stopped by, coach Abegglen let me interview him for about 25 minutes before he finally asked the magic question.
“You guys bring your clubs,” he asked, rather sternly.
We did, so he sent us out immediately.
Designed by Kris Abegglen, Ron’s son, Paradise is a full-sized 9-hole track that provides its share of challenges. It plays a little over 3,200 yards from the back and nearly 2,700 from the white tees.
Incredibly disrespectful and without a trace of pity, my son shamed me into playing from the more distant tees, which I still contend is the reason he beat me.
Having see the place from the road, I thought I had a feel for its layout, but it’s impossible to know all the twists and turns until you actually get out there. It’s also hard to imagine how quiet and serene the atmosphere is once you start playing some of the inward holes.
“It’s like we’re in another world,” my son said at one point.
And he was right.
Understand, this isn’t a paid-for advertisement for the Paradise Resort. Stop by sometime, or don’t. It’s all up to you.
The real intention here is to pass along some information about coach Abegglen and to let WSU basketball fans know where he’s at and what he’s doing.
And that he’s doing just fine, thank you.
“People are in a good mood when they want to come play golf,” he said. “It’s not like being a doctor or a dentist or a mechanic. People are (happy to visit). Ninety percent of them are just really good to deal with and that makes it easy.”
Now that’s paradise.