Caves Valley is aces even with Arnie, Bush

John Steadman

May 06, 1992|By John Steadman

Quietly and unobtrusively, devoid of trumpets, drums and clanging cymbals, the Caves Valley Golf Club has created an identity that is both impeccable and far-reaching. Its reputation is such that in nine months from opening its fairways, the president of the United States and a fairly well-known golfer asked if they could come play. The compliment is without precedent.

Never before have such distinguished individuals wanted to see what a new golf course was like and to decide if the plaudits they were hearing could be justified. George Bush, the president, and Arnold Palmer, one of the sport's most illustrious figures, paid a visit.

Like other Saturday afternoon golfers, they were entitled to relax and temporarily turn away from some of the pressing worries of the world. Their scores were "top-secret" but it is known Bush had the only birdie, which entitled him to some measure of bragging rights.

Caves Valley is endeavoring to prove its consideration for a U.S. Open, one of the most coveted of all events, and it would be most appropriate if it could happen in 1999 -- the 100th anniversary of the first and only time this prestigious championship was staged in Baltimore. Meanwhile, the club is interested in cooperating with the U.S. Golf Association to host any of the myriad of USGA-sponsored tournaments it designates around the country.

The surprise about Caves Valley is how it quickly gained recognition, even though it doesn't advertise itself. Caves Valley has every right to be pleased and now comes a citation that underlines the care and consideration it gave to the air, water, turf, trees and wildlife. The first Environmental Protection Award for golf courses has been conferred by "Grounds Maintenance Magazine." Dr. Mark Welterlen, editor of the Kansas City-based publication, wrote that Caves Valley will "serve as a model for environmental stewardship."

Such an important honor means Caves Valley has respected the heritage of the land and fulfilled the promise it made to community groups that it would enhance and not damage the natural surroundings. Bruce Cadenelli, golf course property manager, and Colleen Sundholm, chief horticulturist at Caves Valley, are fully aware of what the selection means.

And so does Leslie Disharoon, president and chairman of the board at Caves Valley. "To get approval from those concerned about our plan was a long and arduous undertaking," said Disharoon. "But we understood the delays and hearings. Building a golf course is now more complicated than 20 years ago because it's necessary to meet specific environmental codes."

Cadenelli, Disharoon, professional Dennis Satyshur, manager Nancy Palmer and others are elated over the applause that has been given to what rates as a remarkable effort. Caves Valley is estimated to have cost $40 million and continues to earn extraordinary praise.

"Bringing in a golf course is difficult, especially in the Middle Atlantic area, where heat and humidity compound the project," explained Disharoon. "Let me tell you that after Bruce Cadenelli came here he worked 12- to 15-hour days for 408 of the first 410 days he was here. The award exemplifies the teamwork and leadership we believe Caves Valley represents."

The buildings that house the working crew and its equipment are located in a remote part of the property, which figures to well over $1 million to erect and equip. Storage tanks are above ground so they can be monitored to guard against leakage and grass cuttings from fairways, tees and greens are sent to Pittsburgh every three weeks for laboratory analysis.

The next test from a golfing aspect will occur next month when the second Chesapeake Cup is contested. It will feature four U.S. Amateur title-holders and six members with Walker Cup backgrounds. The 54-hole presentation is to be a "better ball" format. Only members and their guests will comprise the gallery but, in the future, it's hoped the public will be invited.

"We want to see how we are able to manage the tournament," explained Disharoon. "We'll do this slowly and try to do it right rather than being aggressive and make mistakes." He pointed to 450 acres across from the course and said, "That area could accommodate 25,000 cars," the implication being Caves Valley has the course and availability to handle crowds.

Caves Valley, in every way, has exceeded the fondest desires of management and membership. It is a preservation of the past -- golf as intended -- while promising glories of the future.

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