About 10 golfers met interim course manager Ed Howerton at the door Tuesday when the Augusta Municipal Golf Course reopened with free play.
“Right now we have more workers than golfers,” said Howerton, who oversaw operations for years at the city-owned course, known as “The Patch,” which the Augusta Commission decided last year to lease to a private company.
State inmates from the Richmond County Correctional Institute, assigned to
remove fallen trees and overgrown vegetation at the course, outnumbered players Tuesday morning, but they and a city crew repairing Red Douglas Clubhouse were a welcome sight, he said.
“It’ll take a while to get to get through repairing things,” Howerton said.
The repairs come later than many hoped. The Patch in Augusta LLC, which sought to use a 2009 sales tax allocation of $300,000 approved for the course when it took over operations last year, was denied the funds by the commission in March. Then last week, commissioners refused to make repairs for a trio of Augusta brothers who wanted to take over the nine-month-old lease after The Patch in Augusta quit paying its employees and the rent.
The commission authorized City Administrator Fred Russell to make the repairs using the sales tax funds Monday.
Floyd Strausser, a Patch member who’d walked nine holes by 9 a.m. Tuesday, said it was just that kind of commission politics that prompted him to move out of Augusta, where he’d lived and played the city course since 1968.
“For them to flat refuse to fix something that they own, that’s purely ridiculous,” Strausser said.
Strausser, like many loyal to the course, said The Patch in Augusta’s Brian Hendry, a Scottish businessman, and Hendry’s pro, Ronnie MacDonald, were nice guys but likely tried to do too much when they banned card games, instituted a dress code and made other organizational changes.
“This is not a champions’ course,” Strausser said. “This is for everyday joes.”
Free rounds, with no golf cars because Hendry terminated his Club Car lease, continue through Sunday.
Russell said he hoped to have a new private operator for the course within 40 days.