Patch's fate still uncertain

Course made $421,000 in '09, spent $519,000

An audit showed Wednesday that Augusta Municipal Golf Course is not losing money in any suspicious way.


But it offered little explanation for how the city's public golf course, known as the Patch, can make receipts equal to expenditures.

Last year, the course made approximately $421,000, but spent about $519,000, auditor J.T. Cosnahan told members of a study committee.

Patch faithful, such as former Lucy C. Laney High School coach Clois Herndon want nothing to keep them off their favorite course. Herndon said he's been playing at the Patch for 48 years.

But neighboring institutions, such as Daniel Field Airport and Augusta State University, continually eye the money-losing course as perfect for their expansion plans.

Augusta State University planner Kathy Hamrick said Wednesday that ASU wanted to be "first in line" should the Patch agree to sell any portion of its property.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, who chairs the study committee, said an expansion of a Daniel Field runway onto the Patch is out of the question. Nearby Highland Park residents already complain about the sounds of takeoff and landing, he said.

The small neighborhood, sandwiched between the private airport and Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, recently made waves by successfully opposing a veterans' home entrance on a residential street.

If the Patch gave up some of its property to Daniel Field, theoretically it could make up the loss by joining forces with nearby First Tee, said golf course manager Ed Howerton.

Adjacent to the Patch, ASU apartments and the airport, First Tee is a six-hole facility geared toward exposing young people to golf.

The Patch has raised rates and increased prices for certain items in an effort to increase revenues, Howerton said. It also relies heavily on volunteers, who exchange their services for use of the course, he said.

The course is the only Augusta recreation facility budgeted in an enterprise fund -- not the general fund -- meaning it isn't supposed to operate in the red.

It already has made some personnel cuts in an effort to save, and has looked at options for increasing memberships and play at the course, said Augusta Recreation Director Tom Beck.

With the audit completed, Lockett sent committee members out to look for other solutions.

The committee will gather again at 6 p.m. May 13 to make a final recommendation on the Patch's fate for the Augusta Commission.