All Hobbit's Glen greens `open again' after repair

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

March 25, 2001|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

WITH PRIME time for golf nearly here, talk among some veteran golfers locally would have you believe the condition of greens at Hobbit's Glen Golf Course in Columbia has deteriorated to the point of some being unplayable.

Which is not a good thing for the showcase-course owned and operated by the Columbia Association that last year experienced more than 50,000 rounds of golf.

But - fore! - this may be one of those glass-half-full or glass-half-empty deals.

The problems, several veteran golfers told a reporter last week, dated to the end of last July's third - and last - State Farm Senior Classic tournament there.

Hobbit's Glen, under the Senior PGA Tour's guidance, was whomped into primo condition for players such as 2000 winner Leonard Thompson, runner-up Isao Aoki, Larry Nelson and Hubert Green, and some 50,000 fans.

Within weeks after the seniors left, those Hobbit's members contended, things deteriorated to the point where temporary greens appeared all over the place and late-fall golfers were told to play the newer, less used, oft-maligned Fairway Hills, which was in excellent shape.

The coup de grace, the complainers said, accompanied annual aeration of the Hobbit's Glen greens just before the fall growing season, with the application of herbicide to control poanna grass. That's a strain of bluegrass common in the Middle Atlantic that is to bent-grass greens, such as those at Hobbit's, as crabgrass is to a decent lawn.

So we asked Bill Neuse, in his 20th year as Hobbit's Glen's grounds superintendent, why folks were saying his course was falling apart.

"You hear all kinds of wild stories," Neuse said. "We did have some temporary greens - six. Some courses shut down all their greens in the winter. Some of the greens here are very poorly constructed - that goes all the way back - and they don't drain well."

He agreed that playing conditions got dicey, even worse, during the late fall and winter.

"We went on a program to limit poanna over the entire course, all the greens," Neuse said. "That and some other things we did created bumpy putting conditions- it's like Armageddon for some golfers. They like things perfect. But ... we had to do things that aren't very good for golfers in the short term. Long-term, what we did will be beneficial.

"Actually, we're better off now than we expected. All the greens are open again, and we've been mowing since the first of March, even though there are still areas we want to fill in. But I really think by the early part of April, you'll never know anything happened."

Sidelines

With Pride: Elkridge resident Jeff Gross, director of the western county's Thunder Soccer Club and an assistant coach at Navy, is adding new duties as coach this spring and summer of the W-League's Maryland Pride.

The Pride, which fancies itself a statewide team but plays mainly out of Montgomery County, has a 15-game schedule that opens May 20, and playoffs. The team will conduct tryouts late next month, Gross said.

If you're interested, call 410-729-1100.

Gross' first chore will be to rebuild the Pride with college and post-college players. Through last year, the team competed in the nation's top women's league.

But 11 of last year's Pride players and many others from the W-League went this year into the new, eight-team, Division I women's pro league, the Women's United Soccer Association, represented in this region by the Mia Hamm-led Washington Freedom.

The new pro league, Gross believes, "is actually going to help" the W-League.

That's because players gushing from the booming women's college game with professional aspirations will have added places to develop their skills.

Gross, a former Columbia club and University of Maryland, Baltimore County player, succeeds Carolyn Rice, who guided the Pride to four playoff appearances in five seasons and the 1996 league title.

He also coached Maryland's under-16 Olympic Development Program girls to a regional title and second place in nationals last year.

Cyber sign-ups: The Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County is about to take an electronic leap - the first paperless registration for fall teams of any county youth organization. The idea is to reduce demands on volunteers in the 6,000-player club and improve the accuracy of club records.

If you're computer clueless, you can still register at the association offices -but online there, as well.

The system is scheduled to be in place in another week or so.

Story ideas?

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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