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CS column 10-3 /gnl/kh

Driving up to Eastwood Golf Course in recent months has brought emotions.

Sadness.

Frustration.

Even a touch of anger.

This robust course and the people connected with it have suffered numerous indignities over the past 24 months, since its original front nine was closed on Sept. 18, 2005.

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The players have lost nine great holes, which they now frustratingly drive past — the land showing no signs of the houses whose construction was the reason the holes were taken out of play.

As the players turn into the parking lot, they feel further frustration as they see what all agree will be nine gorgeous holes to the south of Eastwood Road, still not ready for play. In September 2005, there was hope those holes would be ready at the tail end of the 2006 season, early to mid-2007 for sure.

The club’s head pro, Jeff Gorman, has been as frustrated as anyone. Besides his eagerness to see the project completed and the temporary situation ended, he has seen his pro shop income plummet as traffic at the course is half what it used to be.

Even winter won’t end the frustration as one of the course’s non-golf uses — its famous sliding hill, right off Eastwood Road — is permanently unavailable.

It’s hard to find villains to make targets of anger. The real villains are large, impersonal forces.

Weather.

The economy.

Growth of the city.

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It was growth that made the city council receptive in July 2005 to Platinum Development Group’s offer to pay the considerable expense of creating nine new holes for Eastwood in exchange for the land encompassing the old front nine.

Other development in the area meant Eastwood Road would soon require widening, which would have ruined three holes.

So the deal made sense. But then the stuff started hitting the fan.

Heavy midsummer rains in 2006 and runoff from rapid snowmelt this spring washed out many seeded areas. Not only did the opening have to be delayed indefinitely, the city — which had just taken responsibility for the project from the developer in July 2006 — needed to come up with $307,000 to do the repairs and re-seeding.

Late August rains haven’t helped, but haven’t hurt either, which is a good sign that the new nine will be ready early in 2008.

Meanwhile, the houses that were supposed to be going up on the old nine aren’t there. That planned construction has fallen victim to the soft housing market.

So we drive by land that — had we had a crystal ball — could still be in use for golfing or skiing or sledding.

It saddens Frank Taylor, who opened Eastwood as its head pro in 1965 and handed the keys over to Gorman only five years ago.

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"We feel a little snake-bit," said Taylor, who has re-upped as city golf director in large part to shepherd the Eastwood project.

"I wish we hadn’t had to come up with a new nine at all, but the widening of Eastwood Road was going to knock out several holes. We could have been a 14-hole course with nowhere to go."

Taylor said the holes were close to being ready at the end of this season before that 12-inch deluge in August caused more damage and several more rainfalls of 2 inches or so delayed repairs.

Now, "barring an awful winter/spring," a May 2008 opening is on tap.

"Like every golfer, we’re weary of it all — the construction, dirt, mess and noise," Taylor said. "I and the whole staff will be elated."

Craig Swalboski is sports editor for the Post-Bulletin. He can be contacted at swalbo@postbulletin.com.

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