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Ocean Pines tries to give golfers a little class


The classroom is at a country club and the students are golfers, but this is not the usual teaching academy, one devoted to stance, grip and swing. This school focuses on pace of play, rules of the game and course etiquette.

Normally, these are topics that generate a lot of discussion, period. Lots of talk; no action.

Not so at Ocean Pines Country Club in Berlin, where new members of the Maryland Interclub Senior Golfers Association are required to complete a short refresher course before being allowed to play. It is a class that grew out of necessity.

"About two years ago, it became apparent we were having problems on the golf course, not only in the time required to play, but in how the course was treated," said Paul Desmond, one of the originators of the class idea.

"With a large group of retirees living at Ocean Pines, it was possible many of them either came to golf late, or had not played for years. This was evident in our MISGA group when members would go to play at another club, and not know the rules or proper etiquette."

Although Desmond, who was a member of the executive committee of the men's golf group at the time, and Roy Betts conceived the idea, they asked Joe Russo and another member to do the research.

"We found there was a definite need for such a program, and during 1993 our discussions with a variety of people produced the idea of a refresher course, designed to help those lacking some basic knowledge," Russo said.

At that point, Desmond said, "We recommended the idea to the club's board of governors, but they did not accept it. However, last year, as a committee member, I made a decision regarding our MISGA involvement -- making the refresher course mandatory to play in those events."

Russo, instrumental in the growth of the program, is the professor. The 90-minute class includes comments by club golf director Buddy Sass and course superintendent Randy Denton and a brief rules video from the USGA.

Among topics discussed are proper pace of play (4 hours to 4 hours, 15 minutes) and proper etiquette, especially as it concerns other players, and the course -- such as fixing ball marks and divots.

Last year, in its first season of operation, more than 200 took the refresher class, including some non-MISGA members who went for their own edification.

So far this spring, one session has been held, with 62 students, and more than 50 have signed up for the next one, due the end of the month. In addition, the program has been made mandatory by the women's 18-hole and nine-hole groups at the club.

Ocean Pines has the largest MISGA group in the state, with about 250 members. Its refresher course idea has spread to neighboring Ocean City Yacht & CC, too, where plans for using it are under discussion.

"I'm thinking about taking it to our state body [47 courses and more than 4,300 members], too," Desmond said, "because it has definitely speeded up play, and last summer you could see the difference in course condition."

MAPGA match play

A new format, and the possibility of bonus points in a new series, has attracted the largest, and by far the strongest, field of recent years for the 48th annual MAPGA championship, beginning tomorrow over the South Course at Turf Valley CC.

Dave Quelland of Ocean City Y&CC; is the defending champion and has drawn an automatic berth in the 16-man flight. There will be 68 players scrambling for the remaining spots, including seven former champions, among them two-time winner Bruce Lehnhard.

Players who don't qualify can continue in a second round of stroke play for a separate purse.

In addition, this will be the first tournament of the Molson Cup Series, a season-long program of 10 events where bonus money and points will be awarded. At the end of the year, the top three point-winners will receive additional cash prizes.

Charity events

The seventh Clifton, Gunderson & Co. Open golf tournament, to benefit Richcroft, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that works with people who have developmental disabilities, will be held at 8 a.m. on May 19 at Pine Ridge GC. Entry deadline is tomorrow. Call Carol Myers at (410) 785-3274.

* The second annual golf tournament to benefit the building fund of Jenkins Memorial Church in Riviera Beach will be held at 7:30 a.m. on May 22 at Rocky Point GC. The entry deadline is May 6, with information available from John Taylor (410) 388-4132 or (410) 360-0934.

This week's schedule

Today -- MSGA team matches, 12:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday -- MAPGA Match Play championship, Turf Valley CC, 8 a.m. Wednesday -- U.S. Open entries close. Friday -- WGA team matches (one pairing), 9 a.m. Saturday -- MSGA team match championship.

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