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Courses finding ways to get past the lull in business

With locals spending their time on other dalliances, and roughly two more months left until Northerners return to the area in search of temperate days on the links, executives at local golf courses are finding their own ways to slog through the traditional lull in business.

At the Dunes at Seville, head professional Jason Nelson has found less need for his tutelage as the course's small resident population has not offset the lack of seasonal players.

"August is so dead," he said. "We're getting ready for some things in September and October, but we serve mostly Hernando and Citrus and Pasco, and there's just nobody around."

Nelson estimated a 40 percent drop in business at the Dunes from June until October, a shortfall that forces course management to employ certain maintenance workers on a purely seasonal basis.

Stan Cooke, director of golf at World Woods, estimated a 50 to 60 percent dropoff at his course. But World Woods' larger capacity with three courses allows Cooke to retain his complement of workers year-round.

"The off time is how we get through the whole year," Cooke said. "We're preparing for the fall months and winter the whole time, which is a large part of why we can keep everyone employed."

But the need to spend heavily on maintenance while cash flow dwindles makes bookkeeping adventurous, Cooke said.

"The worst part is revenues drop but maintenance is up," he said, "so you're spending twice as much. If you could do all this in the middle and nothing grew and nothing eroded, you'd be all set."

Cooke said he already is preparing literature to advertise specials at World Woods in October, when most courses take advantage of cooling temperatures to seed their greens. Cooke seeds the Pine Barrens, Rolling Oaks, and practice courses incrementally in October, leaving two open at all times. Few courses have that luxury.

"It takes five to 14 days to get the course back to where it's playable after you seed," he said. "Everyone overseeds so their course is nice and green in the winter. And based on when everyone overseeds (locally) we get them coming our way."

Business may be slow, Cooke said, but in many ways the peace is welcome.

"I couldn't make it 12 months if it was all like January through April," he said. "I like to see the business, but I need the break."

TIMBER PINES: Jack Mahoney hit a hole-in-one Aug. 5 on the 108-yard seventh hole of the Hills course. Two days later, Warren A. Smith Jr. aced the 139-yard 13th hole on the Hills course and Lucille Sullivan aced the 91-yard second hole on Grand Pines.

HEATHER LADIES LEAGUE: Eileen Ball and Jan Brayman each fired a 34 on Tuesday to win the first flight of the Heather Ladies League. Peg Lilly was second with a 36 in the low-net event.

Helen Bourne won the second flight with a 29, followed by Barabara Dohm (30) and Genevieve Beal (33).

Bea Giampino (30) won the third flight, followed by Gladys Kidney and Jean Han (36).