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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

Sand May Help Rancho Greens Get Out of Trap

September 15, 2000|PETER YOON

Rancho Park golf course, one of the most popular golf courses in the country, is back in full swing after nine months of operating with temporary greens, but questions remain about whether the new greens will last.

The City of Los Angeles pumped $2 million into a project that included the rebuilding of all 18 regular greens and 12 alternate greens. The nine-month project took a toll on regular golfers, many of whom did not want to play a course with greens that were basically closely mown fairways with bucket-sized holes.

Since the reopening of the regular greens in July, play on the course has skyrocketed beyond its pre-project levels. The greens have held up in the two months, but the course did not institute a soft-spike policy and some golfers have doubts about the longevity of the greens.

"They won't last," said Mike Rodriguez, who has been playing at Rancho Park for 25 years. "My main concern is the maintenance. The city has a difficult time keeping up with this course. If they are anything like the last ones, they won't last."

Bob White, assistant manager at Rancho Park, said the new greens are nothing like the last ones. The new greens are sand-based, which allows better airflow and drainage, and use bentgrass.

The old greens of Poa Annua grass and clay-based native soil would absorb water, causing soft spots in the surface and drowning roots below the surface.

Essentially, a person standing too long in one spot on the green could make a footprint indentation by squishing the soil below. With sand greens, water filters through, leaving the sand dry and the surface unaffected by weight.

"Those were all original greens," White said. "Back then, they built them differently. These are built to USGA specifications."

Rodriguez contends that course operators need to better police the course, making sure players repair ball marks and don't drag their feet on the greens.

"You're already seeing foot drag marks and brown spots out there," he said. "The marshals don't say anything because you get a lot of retirees out here who don't like to be told what to do."

White acknowledged that many players do not follow common course etiquette, but added that the new greens were built to rebound faster.

The project, funded by the Department of Recreation and Parks' Golf Surcharge Fund, shut down the only public 18-hole course within a 15-mile radius. Area residents were forced to either deal with the temporary greens or drive elsewhere. Many opted for the latter.

In 1998, Rancho Park had 116,688 rounds played on it. In 1999, that number fell to 94,382. Through July of this year, there were 58,455 rounds at Rancho Park.

Kathleen Chan, the project manager for the Department of Recreation and Parks, said that the 12 alternate greens were built to ensure the new greens last.

"No course can sustain the amount of play Rancho gets without relief," she said.

Rodriguez knows a way to slow the traffic without forcing alternate greens into play: Increase the green fees. He said that at $20-$25 per round, Rancho Park is simply too good a deal for a course that once hosted the PGA and senior tours.

"If it was 60 or 70 bucks, the riff-raff stays out," he said. "Now everybody and their mother wants to play. I'll pay $50, no problem at all."

HE'S NO. 2

With nine official PGA tournaments remaining, Tiger Woods, who has earned $8,286,281, has mathematically clinched the money title.

Phil Mickelson is second with $3,387,457. Conceivably, Mickelson can catch Woods, but he'd have to skip the President's Cup to do it.

Mickelson is not playing this week, but if he wins the eight remaining events, including the Tampa Bay Classic the same week as the President's Cup, he would have $8,410,457, beating Woods by $124,176.

That's assuming, of course, Woods misses the cut in every event he plays.

Yeah, right.

MONTY'S MOUTH

Hopefully, somebody told Colin Montgomerie that the Skins Game is a made-for-television event.

Montgomerie, an emotional Scot who has become a villain in the eyes of many Americans because of his inclination to speak his mind, has been added to the field for the Nov. 25-26 event at Landmark Golf Club in Indio.

Considering the players all wear microphones, Montgomerie's outbursts should liven up the event, which has lost luster over the last few years.

Vijay Singh has also been added, completing the four-player field that already included Sergio Garcia and defending champion Fred Couples.

LPGA IN L.A.

The LPGA Los Angeles Women's Championship has narrowed its search for a new home to five courses, according to Bob Collins, the vice president of Group Dynamics and the man in charge of finding a course.

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