Senior, youth golfers need affordable course

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

August 11, 2002|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

SOME STORIES build on themselves. Some end with twists. And some involve, forgive us this irresistible pun, trying hard to make yet another British-born sport catch hold in America.

Building: West Friendship's Donald Dunn is well known in Howard County golf circles for his straight-ahead style and advocacy of anything to improve the lot of golfers locally.

Dunn was an early force in getting Hobbit's Glen organized, way before he and the Columbia Association had a falling out. Without him, the county-owned Timbers at Troy course might never have been built - everyone around during the political battles that preceded the Elkridge course says so.

As leader of a golf subcommittee of the advisory board on Recreation and Parks, Dunn pushed hard - too hard, some also say - for a second county-owned course on a farm opposite the Howard County Fairgrounds.

That idea fell apart several years ago for multiple reasons, although rec and parks still owns the land.

Dunn left the advisory board last year, but his appetite for involvement in public issues continues. Now, the retired executive is on the county's Commission on Aging, which, as was reported here last Sunday, is about to start lobbying for more and better facilities for the county's growing gray population.

One point that group will be making over the next few months sounds like vintage Dunn - what this county needs is affordable golf for senior citizens. If he's said it once, he's said it ... oh, well, just say he mentions it a lot.

Most recently, Dunn has altered his pitch about affordable golf to keep up with the times:

"Where," he asked in a recent conversation, "are all those kids who'll be learning to play golf under First Tee going to play, once they're finished with that program? They're certainly not going to be able to afford the courses around here."

Fun question. And, no, it won't need an answer soon, given the numbers starting to flow through the year-old First Tee program, which offers kids, especially those whose families need financial assistance, heavily subsidized tutelage, complete with equipment and playing time.

Dunn's new position: Why not a county-owned, no-frills course on that farmland? That'd be a good way, he suggested, to serve both beginners and seniors worried about fixed incomes with affordable golf.

What Dunn is talking about sounds akin to the old Font Hill course, which was just south of where Old Frederick Road merges with U.S. 40; the acreage is now houses.

But in its heyday, par-3 Font Hill provided wonderful, if not exactly aesthetic, moments for beginners of all ages. It was easily the cheapest course around.

And its final owners, anyway, kept the tiny greens in good-enough shape to hone one's putting, except near summer's end.

The twist: We wrote two Sundays ago about Ryan Harrigan, the River's Edge teen hoping with his dad, Mike, to go for a national seniors title in soap-box derby racing. He seemed to have a chance, too, given his record and Dad's labors on building a better race car.

But at the very last minute, the Harrigans went vacationing in South Carolina, not racing in National Derby Rallies' championships in Saginaw, Mich. They weren't alone; at least a dozen other racers pulled out, too.

What happened, the elder Harrigan said and the Akron (Ohio) Beacon-Journal reported, was a late-July court ruling in Akron involving modifications to cars' interiors permissible under different 2000 and 2001 rules.

Four rebuffed racers in Akron with cars modified similarly to the Harrigan car took their argument to court. They lost.

Thus - and this continues a condensed, lay version - Mike Harrigan said his son's car had to be modified before competing in ways that "would double the drag. ... And any penalty that affected the aerodynamics would not allow us to finish well."

Trying: Teams from two county touch-rugby clubs are ending their summer seasons this weekend at the fifth Potomac Rugby Union Youth League tournament in Bowie.

The Howard County Hurricanes and the younger Ellicott City Express will be competing against 11 other groups from Maryland and Northern Virginia.

"Trying" - still don't get the pun? A "try" is one of the ways you score in rugby, which to quote Ellicott City's Fred Case, an Express parent, "is a little bit more exciting than soccer."

Uh, no offense, but nice try.

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

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