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Tina Johnson pulls her golf ball out of the cup on the 11th hole at Donald Ross Golf Club on Thursday. A cold March kept area courses quiet.

Courses slow to open

Lengthy winter corresponds to few playing golf

– Like so many people, Rick Hemsoth has harsh words for Punxsutawney Phil, the famed groundhog who incorrectly predicted an early spring this year.

“I’m trying to find someone going to on a trip to Pennsylvania to shoot the darned thing,” joked Hemsoth, the PGA professional at Fort Wayne’s city courses – McMillen, Foster and Shoaff parks – that opened for play March 11.

Late in the week, those courses had yet to mow anything but the greens, and the greens they’d done only once or twice.

“I’ve been here since 1983, when I started at McMillen, and this is the latest that we’ve ever mowed,” Hemsoth said.

Not all courses plan on opening so early. At Cobblestone Golf Club in Kendallville, any play before April 1 is considered a bonus.

“We opened (March 30) this year and last year, it was March 11, but that was an anomaly. Last year was so good because of the weather, when it was in the 70s and 80s in March,” said Alan Moyer, the PGA professional at Cobblestone. “March of this year definitely wasn’t as good as last year (for business).”

Snow isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the condition of courses.

“Actually, snow, when it’s cold, it’s good for the turf because it’s like a blanket effect over it. Snow in itself isn’t a bad thing,” Hemsoth said, adding that it takes full mowing for a course to be evened out and beautified.

Moyer said Wednesday night that would happen soon at Cobblestone.

“We’ve mowed the greens, but it sure is brown out there. We’d love to see a little more green on the course,” he said. “We haven’t seen a lot of growth yet. … It’s really dry for as much snow as we had (recently). We weren’t only on the cart paths when we opened and I was pretty excited about that.”

It will take some time to see whether the topsy-turvy weather of 2013 has a lasting affect on area courses.

For now at the city courses, Hemsoth said, “the grass is just dormant and brown and doesn’t look very good. It’s not the quality that we like our people to play on.”

And that’s been the real problem with Punxsutawney Phil’s erroneous prediction: Because it was so cold, for so long, golfers weren’t at the courses like they usually are and that affects the bottom line.

“We haven’t had players,” Hemsoth said. “Snow’s not a bad thing. But it’s a deterrent.”

jcohn@jg.net

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