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Reward offered in Torrey Pines vandalism

SAN DIEGO - Organisers of next week's Buick Invitational are offering a $5,000 reward to help catch whoever sprayed acid on both the No. 18 greens at Torrey Pines Golf Course, burning deep gashes into the turf.

With the Buick scheduled to start Feb. 11, officials were disgusted by the weekend vandalism at one of the few municipal layouts to host a PGA tournament.

"They basically defaced one of San Diego's treasures," Tom Wilson, executive director of the Century Club, said Monday. "The guy obviously knew what he was doing, hitting the two greens that will have the most visibility."

Repairs began immediately, but some damage might still be visible during the tournament on the seaside courses, said John Walter, golf operations manager for the city of San Diego.

"Somebody had to know what the results would be," Walter said. ``The intent was to really mess up the final hole."

The first two rounds of the Buick are played on both the North and South courses. After the cut, the final two rounds are played on the South Course. The South's No. 18 is ringed by bleachers and sky boxes during the tournament.

Walter said a mower discovered the damage early Saturday morning. "It looks like somebody had a squirt bottle and went right down the middle of the greens squirting acid," Walter said. In some spots, gashes 4-to-5 inches wide were burned into the turf.

Workers tried to neutralize the acid with baking soda and charcoal, and cut out some of the sod that had the worst damage, but were waiting for the arrival of PGA officials to decide the next step.

Repair options included cutting out narrow strips of burned grass and either pulling or stitching the sod together, or resodding. Walter said some of the most heavily damaged areas might have to be fixed with a top dressing of sand.

"If we firm it up (with sand), at least it will be smooth," Walter said. "That's the key. The PGA's main concern is not colour or the aesthetics, but the smoothness and accuracy for putting."

If the damage can't be completely repaired, the pins will be placed as far away as possible. The course will close to the public on Wednesday for final tournament preparations. Until then the holes remain playable, with the pins placed at the very front of the greens.

"This is really unfortunate," Walter said. ``Our crew takes such pride in putting on the Buick and competing with those other golf courses, where people have to pay $200 to play. We want to do the best we can. This is just a shame."

The South's 18 is known for Devlin's Billabong, a large pond in front of the green. In the final round of the 1975 Andy Williams San Diego Open, Devlin took six strokes to extricate his ball and finished with a 10 on the hole.

Torrey Pines is perhaps best known for Craig Stadler's disqualification in 1987 for kneeling on a towel to take a shot from next to a tree on the South's 14th fairway. Stadler got revenge in 1995 when he helped cut down the tree, which was dying from a fungus.

 

 

TRW