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Without public access to golf, the game withers and dies.– KEN VENTURI

come up and say, “I want to do everything I can to save that place and preserve it for generations to come.“ How could you let this atrophy? How could you let this turn to dust? You can’t do it. RICHARD HARRIS: San Francisco is a world city. The city fathers at the turn of the 20th century envisioned San Francisco as a second Constantinople and that vision drove the reconstruc- tion of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Today, the city’s great architectural heritage not only attracts world travelers, it ennobles and inspires its citizens. San Francisco is a repository for world public architecture. It has grand parks and bridges and public palaces such as the Opera House and Symphony Hall. San Francisco City Hall’s dome is a copy of Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s Basilica. Well, the city fathers did that with their golf courses, too. They went out and got the world’s greatest architect to build a public course at Sharp Park. When you acquire great

international art, you have a responsibility to protect it. The golf course is part of San Fran- cisco’s heritage, and we are fi ghting to save it, just as San Francisco has saved its cable cars and the Palace of Fine Arts and Golden Gate Park. LINKS: Government can do some great things. If you look at it just through the prism of golf, look what they created. These are government proj- ects. The fi rst course was Lin- coln. Even today, 100 years after it was created, people say it’s one of the most scenic golf metropolitan courses in the world. Still there. Govern- ment project. When Harding opened in 1925, it was probably the greatest municipal golf

course in the world. When Harding opened, there was no Bethpage, Rancho Park, Torrey Pines, Brown Deer Park, any of these places. Harding was the fi rst really

great public golf course of a championship caliber in America. A true public golf course. Government project. When you think about Sharp Park, they turn the greatest golf architect the world has ever known loose by the seashore, and he teams up with John McLar- en—who built Golden Gate Park—and they transform a salt marsh into this beautiful cultural landscape. An incred- ible feat. It would be incred- ible if it were done today, with today’s equipment. But it was done 80 years ago. •••

Is there anything you took away from your interactions with the environmental lobby that made you think, they may have a point? LINKS: One of the things that golf in general has learned is the game must be sustainable. This isn’t a zero sum gain, or it shouldn’t be, where one side wins and the other side is completely defeated. This golf course and the species have co-existed for 80 years. That is the most eloquent evidence that it isn’t golf at the expense of the species, and it shouldn’t be the species at the expense of golf. There are ways to restore, preserve and enhance this course in a compatible way with the habitat, so every- body benefi ts from it. •••

Is the course safe now? HARRIS: There are so many public agencies involved. You’ve got San Francisco and San Mateo counties and their respective politics. Then you have the Coastal Zone Com- mission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California De-

partment of Fish and Game, the Association of Bay Area Governments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plans (which have to do with the beaches), and there are yet more agen- cies than that. Each of these has some role regulating what can and can’t be done on this property, and each of those has studies and hear- ings and appeals processes. So it’s very complicated, and there’s lots of opportunity for mischief. We’re playing it one shot at a time.

Golf Alliance formed as part of this effort. Do you have a future goal for this alliance? LINKS: The preservation of all the city’s golf courses, and public golf in the Bay Area. HARRIS: It’s about public golf. We had the USGA, the NCGA, PING Golf and virtu- ally every national golf orga- nization announce support for Sharp Park. The mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, supports the golf course as do the public offi cials in San Mateo County and Pacifi ca. These people are coming in on their own to support the restora- tion of Sharp Park. This kind of support is a testament to the historical, artistic and cultural importance of a great public golf course to the community. •••

LINKS: The progress that has been made from the start to where we are now is pretty remarkable. People who are sensitive to it are tuning in. They are saying, “What can we do to help?” We’ve had local citizen golfer work days out here. People are pitching in to pull weeds and work on the golf course. There’s a group called the Alister MacKenzie Foundation that is dedicated to adopt- ing this as a project for the restoration of the golf course. They’ve been very helpful to us. The fact that people are rallying to the cause is very heartening. This stuff is do- able. It just takes a long time and a lot of work. •••

The San Francisco Public

Why is muni golf important? Why is it so important to have access for everybody? LINKS: I think Ken Venturi said it best. He is honorary chairman of the Alliance, and he wrote a letter supporting Sharp Park and Lincoln Park. He said, “Without public access to golf, the game with- ers and dies.” That is never truer than at Sharp Park. The people here are healthy, and they’re healthier because of the golf course.

But the golf course is on life support, and we are the EMTs coming in to keep it alive. If we could help ignite the spark that lit the fl ame that is now keeping everyone warm, then that’s good enough. But it’s those people that are the heat, that are the fl ame. That’s the movement. Golfers standing up united, demand- ing that things get done, that’s what’s going to win this. We have told more than one audience. We can win this fi ght with you. We can’t possibly win this fi ght without you. That’s the most impor- tant thing of all.

SPRING 2013 / NCGA.ORG / 47

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