"It's traditional golf," Tuten says. "It's not golf built around a community to sell houses. It is a community." He nods. "This is a special little place."
Twelve hours later, at 7 a.m., the University of Florida Golf Course opens again, to paying customers. John Earhart, a Jacksonville-area realtor, had arrived at 5 a.m. and paid the standard visitor's fee of $58 to get into the first foursome. The other three trailblazers, who hail from Fort Lauderdale and pay the alumni rate of $50, are John Stone, a management consultant; Will McCamy, a sales rep; and Connie Mack IV, a Florida state legislator. When I catch up with them on the 17th tee, Stone proudly announces that he took the first public divot on the new course—on the 1st tee, no less. "Here's the divot," says Mack, holding up a scraggly piece of fumigated-certified TifSport sod a little smaller than a punch-card ballot. McCamy, sounding more like a lawyer than a salesman, says, "Let the record show that the 1st tee box was scarred by John Stone."
When four more golfers roll up to the tee in electric carts, I walk back to apologize for the short delay caused by my interview. "They took the first divot," I explain.
One of the golfers guffaws. "They've taken lots of divots," he says. "We've been watching them."
That's how the renovation ends. No matter how much thought goes into the design, and no matter how much sweat goes into the soil, you don't have your course back until golfers have top-dressed it with laughter.