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In the Mountains, Tee Time and Trout

Moderate summer weather and the reasonable hour-and-a-half drive from his office in Kingsport, Tenn., are what first attracted Eastman Chemical Co. CEO Earnie Deavenport to the Elk River Club in Banner Elk, N.C. Now it will be at this mountain retreat that he and his wife, Mary Ann, will spend a good part of their retirement. They will divide their time between Elk River and Kiawah Island, S.C., where they have a home on the Ocean Course. Tee times are a lot easier to book in the mountains, Deavenport says.

The couple chose Elk River after carefully inspecting other properties in the area. They tried out the club by joining as associate members in the early '90s. The 3,300-square-foot home they built in 1998, one of the community's eight "Laurel Ridge Cottages," looks over a Jack Nicklaus-designed course to Beech Mountain. Golf is an eight-minute walk or quick cart ride away.

RISING COSTS. The cost of golf at this resort, which is open April through October, has been rising steadily. An equity membership in 2002 will run $100,000, up from $80,000 this year. Yearly dues currently total $7,000. But the amenities range from tennis courts and a swimming pool to an equestrian center.

While some may consider the mountains too far removed, Deavenport finds the combination of golf and trout fishing in the Elk River enough of a draw even without the area's many summer cultural activities. Still, he's a fan of productions at nearby Lees-McRae College and the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., a 45-minute drive away.

"I've made a good investment here," Deavenport says. "But I've absolutely no plans to sell." By Lisa Furlong

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