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Courses welcome the rain ... in moderation

Course pros and managers says fairways are becoming green, lush and playable again, but torrential downpours raise havoc with bunkers.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.

That's the near-unanimous consensus of Pasco County's golf course pros and managers, who have enjoyed a daily deluge of much-needed rain these past two weeks.

"Oh my Lord yes, we needed it so bad," said Ed Paylor of Gulf Harbors.

What was once brown, crisp and dry is quickly turning green, lush and very, very playable once again.

The recent drought that afflicted all of Florida brought about a spate of watering restrictions for residents and businesses alike.

Golf courses, whose livelihood depends on the condition of their greens, fairways, tee boxes and roughs, were as hard hit as anybody, whether or not they could use reclaimed water.

But daily thundershowers the past two weeks have done much to reverse the damage that dryness brought to area courses.

"It's wonderful, absolutely," said Meadow Oaks pro Alex Koskos. "Actually, we weren't that bad at all in the greens, but everything else was affected by it. Now everything couldn't be greener. Without those rains, the rye grass becomes dormant and the bermuda kicks in. Now the bermuda is growing in.

"We were in a panic stage, we're definitely turning around."

Added Paylor: "We're trying to keep the greens in good shape, and we've been doing our best, but the fairways needed the help. We're shaping up real well right now."

Of course, some could have done without the bursts of driving rain.

"We needed it, but we didn't need the torrential downpour," said Lake Jovita pro David Shaffer, "because they wash out all the bunkers. You pray and pray for rain, and I guess we should have been more specific.

"We get like two inches in a half hour and it washes out the bunkers and caves in the side, and the maintenance crews have to go out and spend hours fixing it, and then it happens again, and they go out and spend hours fixing it.

"Obviously, I'm glad we're getting it, but I wish it wasn't coming down so hard. I'd love to have three inches (of rain), just not in three minutes."

Tom Shea, director of golf at the Abbey Course at Saint Leo University, also was pleased.

"We're looking beautifully green," Shea said. "We're really green right now, our lakes are full again, thank God things are looking good."

Shea said the drought didn't affect his course as much because they can only irrigate their greens. Once the new irrigation system is installed, though, the Abbey Course will face the same dilemma as others: watering fairways and roughs during drought restrictions.

HOLE-IN-ONE: Spring Hill's Roy Zinkiewicz on Sunday shot only the second hole-in-one ever at Heritage Pines, which opened in Hudson in January. He used a 6-iron on the par-3, 171-yard sixth hole, giving him easily the highlight of an otherwise forgettable day.

"It was one of my worst rounds in months (an 87), but that sure made up for it," said Zinkiewicz, 49, a retired detective who moved to Spring Hill from New York 12 years ago.

It was Zinkiewicz's second ace. His first came at Sherman Hills on New Year's Eve 1996.

HOLE-IN-ONE T0O: Susan Gillespie also had an ace -- on the No. 3 hole at Beacon Woods on June 12.

JUNIOR CLINICS: Sherman Hills will host three clinics for competitive juniors ages 13-17 on Sunday afternoons this summer.

The sessions are scheduled for July 23-30, Aug. 6-13 and Aug. 20-27. Participants receive lunch, 75 minutes of instruction and nine holes of golf for $15 per week. Call Valerie Brown at (352) 544-0990 for more information.

Meadow Oaks is offering a youth camp for ages 5-16 beginning Tuesday. Classes cost $8 per day and will be from 9 to 11 a.m. through the summer.

The deal includes a hot dog and soda at the end of each session. At least one parent or guardian is urged to accompany young children. For more information, call Meadow Oaks at (727) 856-2878.

Tampa Bay will have a junior program beginning July 17. PGA professionals will teach the classes for boys and girls ages 7-18, and they will meet three times a week for two weeks.

The cost is $65 and the registration deadline is July 10. For more information, call (352) 588-5454.

Staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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Got golf? Contact Pasco Times golf writer Jamal Thalji by phone at (352) 521-5757, ext. 25; by e-mail at thalji@sptimes.com; or by fax at (352) 521-0290.

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