Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. tries to keep his passion for golf private, but there are times when his activities on the links spill into public view.
Those glimpses show that the governor's hobby can lead to financial benefits - for him and his partners on the course.
Recently released campaign finance documents show fresh details about Ehrlich's June 2005 fundraiser at the Elkridge Club, an exclusive country club that straddles the city-county line in northern Baltimore and which at the time had never admitted a black member.
Finance records show that the governor paid $19,561 to the club several weeks after the event, which would mean that about 111 people participated in the event there, based on the campaign's previous statements that it would reimburse the facility $175 per player.
At that size, the $1,000-per-player tournament - at which the governor appeared but did not play - would have netted about $90,000 for Ehrlich's re-election.
State budget documents released last week show that another of the governor's golf outings last year led to a public works project proposed for the University of Maryland, College Park.
The governor's capital budget plan includes $1.5 million to repair a drainage pond on the campus golf course. As first reported by The Washington Post, the project was not a priority of university system officials. But the governor became interested in it after playing with the course professional in a charity tournament hosted by Terrapins basketball coach Gary Williams.
In an interview yesterday, the governor said the project made sense because of the popularity of the course and the benefits the drainage pond provides in filtering storm water.
"Obviously, Coach Williams feels strongly about [it], the folks down in College Park, the pros and the kids who play - a lot of the undergraduates, as you know, play there," Ehrlich said. "It's the right thing to do. It's an environmental problem with the golf course."
The fundraiser and the budget provide a look at the role that golf plays in the governor's world, although it is a part of his life he prefers not to publicize.
Last summer, the campaign finance watchdog group Common Cause Maryland asked Ehrlich to disclose his golf partners, a request that came after Republican Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio was indicted on charges of accepting greens fees as gifts.
Ehrlich's office released the names of 18 charity tournaments in which the governor played between 2003 and 2005, but it said he would not say with whom he played at other times. His communications director, Paul E. Schurick, said, "Private outings with friends are just that - private - and will remain so."
By all accounts, Ehrlich - a varsity football player at the Gilman School and Princeton University - is a serious and talented golfer who appears to have lowered his handicap since his election in November 2002, according to an online database maintained by the Maryland State Golf Association.
The database shows that the governor had a 10.6 handicap in June 2004 but lowered it to 7.6 by November 2004. Association records show that the governor recorded scores from 20 rounds of golf between Sept. 15, 2004, and Oct. 11, 2004, with postings for 12 consecutive days leading up to and including Oct. 11.
The governor and the first lady, who shoots in the triple digits, according to the database, played with University of Maryland course manager Jeff Maynor at the Williams tournament last year, the Post reported. Maynor said yesterday that the governor was interested in the drainage project after asking why a pond on the course had disappeared.
"He said, `Are you going to fix it?'" Maynor said. "And I said, `No, it doesn't really affect us, and besides I don't have a million dollars to do it.' I said it's just a problem because it contained runoff from the [nearby] National Archives and filtered it, and now everything is running into the Anacostia [River]."
James C. Rosapepe, a Democratic appointee to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, said the governing board recommended spending on science and other academic buildings at College Park that were "either rejected or delayed" by the administration, causing disappointment on the campus.
"There is nothing wrong with improving the golf course, but we've got to keep things in perspective," Rosapepe said.
Del. Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat and vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers probably would examine the project in detail. "We have to know that the need is overwhelming," Branch said.
Sun reporters Andrew A. Green and Jennifer Skalka contributed to this article.