Paul Antonelli/Recorder staff Rick Cetnar tees off on the first hole Monday at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. Standing behind Cetnar from left to right are Billy Smith and Tim Czeski.
By PAUL ANTONELLI
When PGA professional Joe Merendo showed up for his 30th opening day at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course on Monday, he knew instantly that this was different from the 29 others.
Waiting for him in the pro shop were flowers and an assorted tray of Italian cookies delivered by his sister Fran Redmond -- an emergency room nurse at St. Mary's Hospital in Amsterdam.
"It's the first time anyone has ever sent me flowers and cookies on opening day," Merendo said with a smile.
It was a difficult winter for Merendo, who was involved in a political firestorm between Amsterdam's Common Council, the mayor and members of the course's Golf Commission. In the end, Merendo got his wish -- to serve the Amsterdam golfing community for another season.
One visitor who stopped by prior to his Montgomery County Republican Committee fundraiser appearance later in the day was former Amsterdam mayor Joseph Emanuele.
"Opening day at Muni is always a special day for Amsterdam," Emanuele said. "I'm glad Joe (Merendo) is back at the helm. We've got to keep politics out of the golf course. It's the city's biggest park."
The day got off to a rocky start for Merendo when the city's 30 golf carts leased through Five Star Golf were not delivered. Instead, golfers had to use Merendo's golf carts that were in storage. The city's golf carts are expected to be delivered today.
"There was some mix-up with the carts getting here, but we should have them all here tomorrow (Tuesday)," said Amsterdam corporation counsel Gerard DeCusatis, who was at the course to update Merendo on the cart developments. "It's nice to see the people out there. This is a beautiful course in relation to a lot of the other courses in the area."
Merendo's new contract stipulates that golf cart fees will benefit the city solely. Prior to Merendo's new contract, he kept those fees.
Also, the Common Council adopted a couple of changes in rates this year. All membership fees received a 5 percent cut, and unlimited use of one of the city's 30 new golf carts is $350 per person.
"I believe there are certain rules and regulations pertaining to carts that members and non-members have to get used to," Merendo said. "They have to adjust to the new rules."
Merendo spent most of the morning and early afternoon talking to members and non-members about golf and the condition of the course and opting not to discuss the turmoil that eventually led to litigation and ultimately an agreement between the parties involved.
"Actually, the course is in very good shape for this time of the season," Merendo said. "Usually, the course it very wet, but right now, it's nice and dry."
Some of the improvements golfers will recognize on the Robert Trent Jones-designed course are the completed drainage improvements on holes 6, 11 and 14, and a new tee box on the fourth hole. Also, trees were cut down throughout the course to provide for better air distribution, according to Merendo.
Future plans for the 6,370-yard, par-71 course include improvements with the tees, cart paths and the layout's 28 bunkers.
For 18 holes, it will cost a non-member $12 per person to rent a cart and a member $10 per person. For nine holes, it will cost a non-member $8 per person and a member $6 per person.
Daily greens fees are $26 Monday through Thursday and $29 Friday through Sunday. The twilight rate (after 3 p.m.) is $18.
The day started with the awarding of prizes that included a raffled-off Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course season membership won by Bob Kelly. Bob Syzdek won the golf bag, Pat McDermott captured the Golf for 4 prize, and Joe Bartone and Dave Sanders each won a dozen golf balls.
In the end, people were there for the golf and the chance to get outside, swing a club, and shake off the cobwebs of a long winter.
"This is normally one of the better courses in the area," said longtime member Rick Cetnar, who said he plays at Muni about three times a week. "The course itself is in phenomenal shape. I'm hoping to get out about 100 times this year and looking forward to it."