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In charge of doctoring the course through the drought was Ray Granger, a greenkeeper who has been with the club for 27 years. By reputation one of the top greenkeepers in the country, Granger has had his share of troubles with the elements—hurricanes in particular. They sweep in across Narragansett Bay, piling waves across Ocean Drive to inundate parts of the course with as much as six feet of water. The 1954 hurricane swept a house off the course. The bleak skeletons of viburnum and willow trees a half mile inland attest to the long reach of the damage the hurricanes inflict.
The salt does it. And the only salvation is to wash the salt off with the fresh water sprinkling system before it kills the grass. In the '54 hurricane, Granger got in a boat and rowed out to the 17th fairway, where the water was lapping at the eaves of the shelter house and somehow got the sprinklers going, setting them spiraling slowly and continuously under the seas for the week it took the waters to recede.
Fresh water was, of course, also the answer to the '57 drought. But the watering system at Newport is an antiquated one. The two-inch pipe supplying the fifth hole has so little pressure in it that, as Granger says, "barely enough water comes out to slake a man's thirst."
Playing in saw grass
A number of measures had to be taken to save the course—in particular, letting the grass grow to protect itself against the sun. Granger called off the mowing until the members began to complain that they were playing in saw grass. But it worked. When the rain finally fell in late August, fairways and greens took on a sheen that surprised and delighted visiting golfers.
The course may have been in the best shape possible when the President arrived, but there was some speculation as to whether he would enjoy it. Golf courses have their particular personalities, their characteristics, their quirks, all of which can irritate rather than present an agreeable challenge.
Press Secretary Hagerty had gone the rounds of Newport with Howard Cushing, the president of the club, a few weeks before the President arrived, and thought the course would meet with his approval. But the first day, the President looked out over the fairways before setting forth and asked grimly: "You got any of those long 4� par-4 holes?"
"Yes," said Mr. Cushing, in what was not a particularly reassuring answer. "We've got a lot of them here; and we've got a couple of 3� par-3s."
"Those are bad," said the President. "They break my back." With this, he stepped up to the practice tee and flubbed his first shot. "Oh-oh," he said.
To complicate matters, there was a heavy wind blowing that day. The President announced that he wasn't sure he could even stand up in the wind, much less hit the ball. But his drive from the first tee went down the fairway 230 yards, straight to the pin. Applause rose up around him, and he gave a big grin and doffed his country club golfing hat.