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Ready, Set...
John Garrity
April 16, 2001
The budget's a nightmare, but the design's a dream and finally all systems are go
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April 16, 2001

Ready, Set...

The budget's a nightmare, but the design's a dream and finally all systems are go

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Weed looks intrigued. "We'll study that," he says. "The key is to make it so that only two players out of five—and I'm talking about good players—have a chance for eagle." He smiles, imagining the new 17th as a make-or-break hole in a college tournament, a place where eagle-makers soar and bogey-makers bawl. Just as quickly, he's back to thinking like an engineer. "We really need to drop this bunker on the right," Weed says, "make it much lower than the putting surface." He hands the notebook to Sherman and starts walking toward the woods behind the 3rd green, looking for the little blue flag that marks the new 4th tee.

Sherman lingers for a moment, studying the sketch and staring down the 17th fairway. It is his job to transfer Weed's ideas for the hole to the computer. "This is a fairly nondescript hole now," he says, "but we can make it into a hole that gives you lots of options."

He closes the notebook and starts walking toward the cart. "I'm freezing," he says.

At this stage most of the work takes place indoors, where the temperature is always 72� and the light is fluorescent blue. The course committee meets at 1:30 p.m. every Tuesday in the All-American Room on the second floor of the clubhouse. Weed and Sherman usually sit on the window side of the table, their backs to the course. Assistant athletic director Chip Howard—the only man in the room wearing a tie—sits on the other side. A Rhode Island graduate with 12 years of experience in athletic administration, Howard combines the upbeat manner of a booster with the gimlet eyes of a corporate banker. It's his job to make sure the University Athletic Association gets what it wants, a showcase course at a reasonable price.

It's early February now, and Howard has 24 hours to prepare a final construction budget for athletic director Jeremy Foley, who will, in turn, take it to the Athletic Association's finance committee for approval. "We need to get down to $4 million," Howard says, that being the figure agreed upon after months of input from consultants and other interested parties. (Weed's fee and other design costs have already been funded with $300,000 in seed money.) "We have to live with that," Howard emphasizes. "Jeremy won't go back to the well twice." He lifts his budget knife—an ordinary ballpoint pen—and waves it over the bottom number on the preliminary budget. "We have to cut $109,623"

Interpreting the profound silence that follows as assent, Howard begins to reel offline items, looking for savings: mobilization...site preparation...earthwork...greens construction...bunker sand. "Drainage!" says Howard, raising his eyes hopefully, certain that $350,000 is an extravagant sum to help rainwater respond to gravity. However, Jay Brown, the civil engineer, shakes his head. Brown says the budget doesn't include three concrete pads for electric transformers and the 2,000 lineal feet of conduit he estimates will be needed to run power to the pump station, south of the 2nd tee. Projected cost: about 25 grand. Howard sighs and says, "We're going the wrong way."

They move on. Pond liner, $33,000...shaping, $189,000...tee construction, $69,000. Sherman, poring over his own figures, defends each number with the tenacity of a soccer goalie: "That's not something we'd cut.... That's firm.... That's a deal...." The discussion is bogged down over a proposal to save $3,000 on a snow barrier when a student assistant sticks his head in the door to ask if anyone needs refreshments. " Diet Coke? Sprite? Water?" Weed, who has been leaning on the table, looks up. "Oxygen," he says. The crack gets a big laugh and reduces the tension in tire room.

They move on. Weed wonders aloud if they really need two rototillers, the big Caterpillar SS250s that will slice up the decades-old organic layer and mix it with a sandy subgrade. "Those things are about $15,000 a month," Sherman says, "including a water truck for dust control. I've budgeted $60,000."

"We can go with one?" Howard asks. Weed nods and says, "We can go with 40"—meaning $40,000. Twenty thousand dollars has been saved; Howard scratches in the change with a smile. His smile fades when the architects reject his suggestion that they not rebuild the multilevel tees on the team end of the practice range. "You need to redo it all," says Sherman. "You want a grade-A practice facility."

Howard winces: "We just spent $350,000 two years ago to do that practice range."

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