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Slice of Strife : Pelted by Golf Balls, Neighbor of Links Asks Cerritos to Address Problem

September 28, 1986|STEVEN R. CHURM | Times Staff Writer

CERRITOS — Bob Underwood has added a new twist to the golf term slice .

When an errant ball lands in his warehouse along the No. 2 fairway at the city-owned Iron Wood Nine golf course, he's been known to run a knife across the face of the ball, write "nice slice" on it, and toss it back.

"That way they'll know I appreciated the shot," a sarcastic Underwood said recently, his stab at humor masking his growing frustration with City Hall.

The owner of a small truck supply company has been swinging away at the city for more than two years about poorly hit golf balls from the No. 2 tee bouncing off, on top of and over his warehouse and offices at 16319 Piuma Ave. Underwood said as many as a dozen golf balls a day hit his business, and he fears for the safety of his employees, especially those working in the warehouse, which backs up to the course.

'Like Russian Roulette'

"It's like playing Russian roulette," Underwood said. "Somebody is going to get beaned or killed someday."

The city says Underwood is way out of bounds on this one.

City officials contend that they have done all they can, short of putting a bubble over Underwood's business. They have erected a 20-foot-high screen and planted eucalyptus trees around the No. 2 tee.

"There's no way to come up with a 100% solution," said Kurt Swanson, director of human affairs. "But I think what we have has been satisfactory."

But a steamed Underwood disagreed, pointing to four golf balls on his desk. He had written on each ball the date and location that it had hit his business. All four had become his property in the last two weeks.

Golf Course Came Later

"The city says there is no way to guarantee that balls are not going to come over here," Underwood said. "Well, if I put a shooting range up and can't guarantee that any stray bullets would leave the range, I don't think I should get a license to open. Same with this golf course. The city is responsible to maintain the safety of it. This building was here first, the golf course came later."

The small commercial complex where Underwood is located, just west of the 605 Freeway, opened in the mid-1960s. The city built the golf course, south of the industrial buildings, a decade later.

Underwood's business is at the

far west end of the commercial development, which is separated from the golf course by a stand of shade trees and a small Christmas tree farm.

From the back of Underwood's warehouse, it is about 200 yards at a 45-degree angle to the No. 2 tee. Because it is one of the longest holes on the par-3 course, most golfers use a wood on the tee and take a big swing to hit the ball.

Underwood never knows when a golfer hits the ball straight, only when they don't.

The sheet metal on the back of warehouse is pockmarked from balls that have hit the building on the fly.

"Any ball that makes it this far is really moving," Underwood said. "It's a lethal weapon."

Wife Hit in Leg

His wife, Sharon, who works for the company, was struck in the leg in the firm's parking lot, and four of Underwood's vehicles, including two delivery trucks and two of his personal cars, have been damaged by ricocheting balls, he said. Underwood, who lives in Anaheim, has filed four claims with the city for damages, but each has been rejected.

Underwood said the squabble has become a big enough distraction that at times he loses sleep over it. And at work, his wife said she jumps up to check her new station wagon every time a ball hits the roof.

Out of frustration with the response so far from city staff, Underwood earlier this month raised his case at a City Council session. Without mentioning the claims, the council asked its staff to give the problem of the errant balls another look.

Underwood suggested to the council that doubling the height of the screen next to the No. 2 tee to 40 feet would stop most errant drives headed his way.

Mayor Don Knabe, a golfer himself, said the idea has merit. Then, deadpan, said that the outcome would have little bearing on his game: "All of my drives are right down the middle."

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