On paper, golf is meant to be a simple sport. There’s a hole. A player with a club tries to smack or tap the ball into that hole. The fewer attempts it takes, the better the score.
However, taking care of the municipal golf course and deciding who does what in terms of managing it has been another issue entirely for the city of Amsterdam.
Last week the City Council agreed to give its support to the Golf Commission so the commission could manage the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course until Dec. 31.
The commission, which has five members appointed by the mayor, isn’t usually in charge of managing the golf course. In fact, there was actually never one person in charge of things in the past. Instead, a greenskeeper, a concessionaire and a golf pro each had their own areas of responsibility.
Renewing the contract of the longtime pro, Joseph Merendo, had been a source of conflict between Mayor Ann Thane and the council since last year when initially, the Golf Commission didn’t renew it. But after much debate between the mayor and council — most members were in favor of keeping Merendo as the golf pro — Merendo will be the golf pro at least until the end of this year.
Thane, however, wants a golf manager or someone who can take oversight of the golf course.
The Golf Commission in a Jan. 10 report outlined several “operational issues” that need to be addressed, among them a lack of daily oversight of course operations, a lack of any significant changes for years at the course and concession, a long wait list for people seeking to store private golf carts, a dated pro shop with limited inventory, overfull trash cans, empty water jugs and a “poor general appearance of the grounds.”
It was the Golf Commission that requested the meeting with the council Tuesday night to discuss what it can or can not do — three members attended the meeting with a list of questions for the council on what they could do in terms of managing the golf course.
“We can’t sit here and do nothing,” Bob Karutis, a member of the commission, told the council.
Michele Russo and Pam Ritter, chair and vice chair of the commission, voiced similar sentiments throughout the meeting, and said it was unclear what the commission has power to do.
Russo read out the questions one by one to the council, including “Where does the authority rest to make decisions and manage the operations of the golf course?” and “Who makes recommendations or approves capital improvements for the golf course and its structures?”
Prior to deciding on giving the commission its authority Tuesday night, the council and the commission traded ideas on what they could do to solve the situation, from appointing someone from the city to run the commission to having a referendum to decide the commission’s future.
At one point, Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. accused Mayor Ann Thane of wanting to be the person in charge of everything and of wanting to sell off the golf course if she could.
Thane responded that her intentions have been the opposite. “I just want the operation to run properly, to run it like a business,” she explained, also citing the low membership of the golf course.
After the meeting, Barone explained that possibly after Dec. 31, that there could be a referendum for the taxpayers of Amsterdam to decide what to do with the commission.
For her part, Thane said that the commission should probably be turned into an advisory body rather than a governing one, because the golf course is a part of the city and should be run efficiently and with accountability.