Enthusiastic golfers revere California's Monterey Peninsula as a holy land of their sport. This summer, Lynette Owens & Associates (LOA) brought its Insurance Advisory Board to this West Coast mecca for its sixth annual summer meeting, and while the golf was heavenly indeed, insurance executives learned there are more reasons to make a pilgrimage to Monterey than just its hallowed fairways.

The group--15 insurance executives and eight member property representatives, plus LOA staff and guests--stayed at the Monterey Plaza Hotel, hosted by director of sales, Mike Boyer. Their three-day meeting included morning educational sessions highlighted by professional speakers (see page 132), and afternoons and evenings exploring the Monterey area.

The hotel itself is unique, located on Cannery Row, halfway between the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Fisherman's Wharf. Guest rooms literally hang out over the bay, and it's not unusual to see harbor seals and sea otters swimming about in the kelp beds just offshore. Kayaking seems to be the official sport of the area, and Adventures by the Sea, an outfitter across the street from the hotel, can get a rank beginner paddling in half an hour. Several of LOA's guests did just that, cruising their colorful kayaks along Cannery Row's rocky coastline or drifting in the kelp to view the wildlife.

When Boyer says his property is "more than just the hotel itself," he's got the whole pennisula in mind--galleries, shops, restaurants, kayaking, fishing, wineries, and lots of golf. One evening the Monterey Bay Aquarium--a short walk away--was the site for dinner. A dramatic, two-floor-high tank filled with sharks, turtles, and fish served as backdrop for a delicious evening. Seafood was not served.

On another night, Monterey Plaza catered a dinner at Holman Ranch, a lovely (and in this case, groovy) hillside estate overlooking Carmel Valley. The theme for the party was the Psychedelic Sixties, and it didn't take any coaxing to get attendees to revert from golf shirts and Reeboks to beads, tie-dye, and sandals for this ever-so Californian theme party.

Two afternoons were reserved for a golf tournament, with the first round played at the inland Rancho Canada Golf Course and the second at the exclusive Poppy Hills Golf Course, just off Monterey's scenic 17-Mile Drive. Initially, the group's devoted golfers were reluctant about their scheduled activity for the third afternoon of the meeting--after all, it wasn't golf--but Mike Boyer had something else in mind: car racing. About half an hour from the hotel, Laguna Seca Raceway is home to the Skip Barber Driving School, which accommodates groups for half-day, full-day, and multi-day racing programs. Even before the LOA group was out of the classroom, it was clear this half-day experience would be the highlight of their trip. Donning one-piece driving suits and hefty helmets, the insurance executives squeezed into their appointed "Formula Dodge" race cars. Low to the ground, with an open cockpit, the sleet machines looked every bit the Matchbox fantasy, and to speed around the professional raceway (even tracking behind a pace car) was a thrill, long to be remembered.