BROOKSVILLE — It's been five months since Jake Oudshoorn has hit a ball on the lush, green fairways of his favorite golf course. The last time he played a round at Brooksville's Quarry Golf Course was May 28 — the day it shut down for renovations.
But Oudshoorn and his wife, Shirley, plan to be back playing the nine-hole executive course when it reopens for business Tuesday. So will a lot of other regulars, he said.
"We've really missed it," said Oudshoorn, 76. "It's the most enjoyable course we play on. You start at 7:30, and you're done by 10. There's not a lot to it. It's just a fun round of golf."
The renovations to the facility, however, have not gone as smoothly as everyone hoped. Although the course itself is in good playing shape, city parks director Mike Walker said delays in work on the planned Hernando County Enrichment Center on the property have created some unexpected headaches.
Work on converting the former rock-crushing facility into an enrichment center and special needs disaster shelter won't begin for a few more weeks. When it does, construction will likely cause some minor inconveniences for golfers, Walker said.
"It's not the best of situations right now, but we're going to make the most of it," he said. "People are expecting (the course) to open and we will be, but we're hoping (the construction) won't have a great effect on our operation."
Attracting golfers — both old and new — to the 14-year-old course is paramount to the Quarry's survival. According to the city's figures, the Quarry lost $112,000 last year. It's projected to lose about $148,000 next year.
The drain on the city's strapped finances has been so great that it prompted Brooksville Realtor Robert Buckner to write to the City Council last month, requesting that council members consider closing the course.
"I contend the ability to increase revenue will not be realistic," Buckner wrote. "Expenses will continue to the be the primary cause for a loss and a drain on the budget."
Although council members mulled over the possibility, they ultimately chose not to shut down the golf course. Instead, they plan to hold a workshop early next year to discuss how to best market the small course in a county that has 21 18-hole courses.
"We need to really sit down and look at our options," said Mayor Lara Bradburn. "We need to gather information, user data and financial data, and we need to look at the legacy of the golf course and what it really means to the taxpayers and the people who play on it."
For Joe Johansen, 76, the council's decision to keep the Quarry open was good news. He's been volunteering at the course for three years, helping out with things like greens and sand trap maintenance. He says the small staff at the facility has done wonders to keep the course a viable city entity, capable of attracting good business.
"They've had to do a lot with very little," Johansen said. "It's been hard to keep it looking as nice as it does."
The failure of a well in May nearly wiped out the greens. By the time it was fixed, weeds already had begun to invade the delicate Bermuda grass. It took weeks for reseeding efforts to take hold.
Much of the work during the summer was devoted to making the entire course more attractive. The Hernando County Mining Association donated staff and equipment to remove large areas of overgrown brush and expose more of the natural beauty of the former limestone quarry. In addition, some trees were removed to improve growing conditions for grassy areas.
Walker hopes the improvements will bring a sense of anticipation for golfers who haven't played the Quarry in a while and attract new players as well. In addition, the facility is bringing back its First Tee youth golf program, aimed at teaching elementary school-age children the basics of the game. So far, 10 youngsters have signed up to learn the game with new golf instructor Miles Groff.
"It's important to attract that new clientele and get them into the sport," Walker said. "They're the ones we want to have playing out here when they're older."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.