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National Patch Time

Trump says course will be great, but will it be ready for an LPGA event in 10 weeks?

July 21, 2005|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Hyperbole is the essence of Donald Trump's vernacular, so it was difficult to know how seriously to take him last week when he said that he had no doubt that his new Trump National Golf Club would be ready in time for an LPGA tournament at the end of September.

A quick look around the oceanside course in Rancho Palos Verdes might indicate otherwise.

Trucks and bulldozers are scattered around the property and dozens of workers scurry about trying to put the final touches on a project that has been under construction for more than a decade.

A planned 75-foot waterfall behind the first green is still just a large concrete structure with steel poles sticking from it. There are several construction staging areas around the course that are exactly what they look like: large dirt patches.

The green on the first hole was planted only a week ago -- barely in time for the 60-day period required for it to grow in and be ready for the start of the LPGA event Sept. 30 -- and if nobody pointed out the site of the proposed driving range, it easily could be mistaken for a barren field littered with mounds of loose dirt.

Still, during a visit to the course July 13, Trump insisted that even though the June 1 public opening he announced this year had long passed without a green fee paid, the course will be ready when Annika Sorenstam arrives to defend her title in the Office Depot Championship.

"This is pretty much ready now," Trump said, ignoring that he was talking while standing on top of a huge dirt mound behind the first hole.

Coming from a developer who for almost three years has cavalierly proclaimed that Trump National would be "better than Pebble Beach," and last week praised everything from the stones used to build the retaining walls to the golf carts and lawn mowers -- "nobody has better lawn mowers than us," he said -- it was a statement best served with a grain of salt.

LPGA officials, however, say they aren't terribly concerned, even though their tournament is less than 10 weeks away. They've kept a close eye on the construction progress, and representatives from the tour have visited twice in the last two months to make sure deadlines have been met.

The main areas of concern are the first and 17th greens, sites of the waterfalls Trump has added to enhance the aesthetics, and the absence of a driving range. Thus far, they seem satisfied.

"We sort of hooked on to the end of July before we were going to start looking for another site," said Barbara Trammell, vice president of tournament operations for the LPGA. "Obviously we had to be prepared to do that, but at this point we feel comfortable that the course will be ready."

Joel Rojas, director of planning, building and code enforcement for Rancho Palos Verdes, pointed out that the course does not need to be open to the public before the LPGA tournament. They can obtain a special-use permit for tournament week.

"They had expectations that the course would open to the public in June, and we thought that was optimistic," Rojas said. "Right now we're more focused on what we have to do to get the tournament happening."

The course can be played in its current state. Course officials booked several charity tournaments for the last six weeks, and the Dodgers and Oscar De La Hoya are among those who have held tournaments under special-use permits.

General Manager Mike Van der Goes said that obtaining permits and having inspectors sign off on the work for the construction of the waterfalls and the driving range have caused most of the delays. A range of agencies, including the California Coastal Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, the City Council and the Department Fish and Game, had to approve the projects.

"Building the water features took a lot longer than what we thought," Van der Goes said. "You've got eight or nine different agencies that we need to have a stamp of approval before we can even move forward."

The waterfalls aren't necessary for the LPGA tournament. An incomplete first green and driving range could have been deal-breakers. The first green was planted just in time, but the driving range, approved in June, will not be completed before the LPGA tournament. Trump has applied for a special permit to build a temporary driving range to be used during the LPGA tournament, and Rojas said there should be no problem in approving it in time for the event.

The LPGA's Trammell said that would be satisfactory.

"Our main concern now is the driving range," she said. "But they have broken ground on it and they are going to sod it instead of seed, so it will be ready faster. It should be ready to go in about four to six weeks."

Logistical problems may still hamper the event. Parking is scarce around the course, so spectators probably will have to use lots in nearby San Pedro and then take shuttles to the tournament. Once there, getting around the course figures to be a concern.

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