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Hutton: Gleason course in good shape for upcoming Gary Amateur

This drainage ditch back nine South GleasGolf Course Gary was partially buried mud. It is among ditches thcourse's grounds crew

This drainage ditch, on the back nine of the South Gleason Golf Course in Gary, was partially buried in mud. It is among the ditches that the course's grounds crew is attempting to repair. | Mike Hutton~Post-Tribune

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Updated: June 3, 2013 3:47PM



GARY — The great floods of April 2013 didn’t render South Gleason Golf Course inoperable this time.

It’s been a brutal month for golf, with some private clubs, like Innsbrooke Country Club, waiting until last weekend to open. Record rain falls — close to nine inches for April for the Chicago area — have made slogging around a golf course a hit or miss proposition for the fanatical players from Northwest Indiana.

Gleason needed this kind of challenge to see how it would hold up. So far, so good. It can’t get much worse than April.

“It’s fine,” Bob Farag, the manager at Gleason said of the soggy course earlier in the week.

All the courses are still damp, even with the recent spat of sunny weather.

Farag and new groundskeeper Donnie Plogh are sprinting hard to get the course in shape for the Gary Amateur (formerly known as the Northwest Indiana Golf Classic), which will be held on June 8 and June 9 at Gleason.

Getting the tournament back to Gleason, which has hosted it for 80 of the 85 years, has been a circuitous, water-logged adventure that started in September of 2008. That’s when another historic rain fall — up to 10 inches fell in some areas over a weekend — essentially shut Gleason down for three years. Even though it was operable during that period, the course was barely functioning after fairways on the back nine (16 and 18) were washed out. They also had to replace several greens. Last year, Farag, an expert at dealing with low-lying golf courses, took over as manager with a mandate: Fix the course up on a shoestring budget. Farag used to own Griffith Golf. His course and the clubhouse were washed out completely in the flood of 2008.

Farag hired Plogh, who used to work at Lost Marsh as the golf pro, as a full-time grounds keeper this year.

The two of them have worked hard, along with a core of volunteers, to whip the course back into shape.

All the greens are back in shape and they reseeded the fairway on No. 18. They also added rough on No. 13 and in some spots that had turned into bare patches of mud because of the rain.

The front nine, for the most part, was in decent shape when Farag took over.

The biggest challenge Farag and Plogh have had on the course involves the dozens of drainage ditches that were added to the course randomly over the years.

Many of them were caked in up to a foot of dirt and mud. Once they dug them out, however, they discovered that the pathway to the ponds, where they were emptied, was blocked. To fix them, they unearthed the entrances, which were marked by an iron cover and then used a probe to bust through all the dirt.

The process has been time consuming. Farag estimates they have had to fix 40 of the drainage ditches so far — with more to come.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have good maps,” he said.

The other problem they’ve had to deal with was that the drainage ponds were filled above the drainage ditches. That left no place for the water to travel. To combat that issue, Farag has been pumping water out of the ponds almost non-stop this month to keep the water levels low.

The work has paid off. On Monday, with the weather nice, the course was bustling with a steady stream of golfers. Farag, who was just put in charge of all 36 parks in the city, has long-range plans to put a halfway house on the course and redo the fairways on several of the par 3s.

Farag and Plogh are looking forward to the challenge of getting the course in the best shape possible for the tournament’s return home.

To sign up for the tournament, email Gleason at Southgleason@inbox.com or look for the entries in the Post-Tribune on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.



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