Step up for the Patch

City should do the right thing to save popular golf course

New managers have come forward to take care of the municipal golf course affectionately known as “The Patch.”

Now it’d be nice if the old owners would step up, too.

Augusta commissioners, tired of six-figure losses at the course, voted last year to simply rent it to a Scottish businessman for $1,000 a month – and let him figure out how to turn a buck out there.

Eight months into the arrangement, though, he’s gone for having failed to pay rent since March, and three Augusta brothers have agreed to assume the arrangement.

It is completely a labor of love. It’s safe to say they found things in a state of disarray. The clubhouse leaks so bad that the kitchen subflooring is spongelike; the kitchen’s air conditioner doesn’t work; much of the groundskeeping equipment doesn’t either; and the finances are in a shambles. The membership rolls are, too.

The Kelly brothers – Brian, Pat and Dennis – had to scramble to get the course playable for a First Tee tournament last weekend at their own expense, having to do some triage on some equipment while bringing in other pieces. They’ve got a lot of other maintenance work ahead of them as well.

They sure as heck don’t need to be sinking a bunch of capital improvement funds into the course, and they shouldn’t be expected to. Nor will they.

It’s still the city’s course, after all.

The city long ago issued $300,000 in bonds for improvements at the Patch, but apparently that money has yet to be spent.

Now would be a good time, as local managers with an abiding affection for the old course take over and give it as much TLC as they can.

“They’ve got to step up to the plate and do the right thing,” Dennis Kelly said of the city.

In a letter to the city attorney Monday, Kelly makes it clear that if an agreement on the various responsibilities of the city and the Kellys isn’t finalized by Friday, the new management deal is already off.

Augusta commissioners were no doubt delighted to rid themselves of some $300,000 in annual operating losses when they got the outside manager last year. But there’s a big difference between that and simply washing one’s hands of the course.

We trust the city won’t do that.

Augusta is the national home of golf. Masters Tournament visitors surely expect more from this city’s municipal course than they’ve been seeing. Residents of Augusta and members of the Patch deserve better than they’ve been getting.

Most of the Patch’s devoted golfers carry with them the memory of a friend or relative who had a special place in their heart for this modest patch of heaven. It’s not just a golf course to them. It’s a memorial to their loved ones and the moments they shared there.

If Augusta commissioners don’t feel a sobering sense of responsibility for that legacy, then they’re just not doing it right.

Step up, Augusta. Do it right.

It can’t all be up to managers who pay $1,000 a month to run it. The city must act like the owner and landlord that it is.

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