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Florida's golf courses suffer in hurricanes

Hundreds of Florida golf courses -- including some of the country's best -- may never be the same again after being ripped apart by the recent four-hurricane onslaught, a senior golf official says.

Kevin Marrone, the director of the PGA for South Florida, said yesterday that much of the damage will be permanent -- especially the tree damage. "Courses in our area have suffered millions of dollars in damages ... it's devastating," Marrone told The Post.

At Mirasol Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, home of the $5 million PGA Honda Classic tournament, hundreds of trees were downed by Hurricane Frances, which also poured 16 inches of rain on the area.

"Then Jeanne came and downed more trees," Marrone said. "And I know they do not have tree insurance. And if a rich club like Mirasol has no tree insurance, then other clubs don't either. It's devastating."

Prestigious Lake Nona Golf and Country Club -- home to U.S. Open champions Anika Sorenstam, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen as well as Sergio Garcia and Nick Faldo -- was among the hardest hit, with some 1,000 trees damaged. Charley's 100 mph winds uprooted giant oak trees, which blocked the driveway to the club and took two full days to clear. "On the course itself, tree damage is just devastating," said Lake Nona Director of Golf Gregor Jamieson. "We've lost a lot of 'character trees' that were left behind when the course was built."

Other courses were hammered as well.

"We lost so many trees that played a vital role on many of our holes," said Bud Taylor, director of golf at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie.

At Hobe Sound, where Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne came ashore, devastation from the killer storms caused the cancellation of this week's Florida Open tournament, which was due to be held there from Oct. 7-10.

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