If you want to stir an emotional debate in the city of Amsterdam, say something about the golf course.
Then step back and watch the cleats fly.
The Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course has long been one of the city's finest jewels. It was designed by one of the legends of the sport -- Robert Trent Jones. A round of golf is relatively affordable, and it's right in the neighborhood. Muni has been accepted in regional golfing circles as a truly beautiful place to spend a sunny summer afternoon while cursing at a little white ball.
That is, during its heyday.
The golf course today is symbolic of the city of Amsterdam: It's not in the same shape that it once was. Some attention and tender loving care, coupled with a general appreciation of its existence, would go a long way.
Those who still play there -- and those who once did but have since moved on to greener pastures (and fairways) -- will tell you the Muni is a shadow of its former self. There are benches, ball washers and tee box signs that are either missing or in a sad state of disrepair. Other amenities are not up to par. And the fees are simply not worth it. Especially not when compared to what it once was.
The city's golf commission and common council have been discussing of late the contract renewal of Muni's popular and well-respected course professional, Joseph Merendo. Joe the Pro's contract is set to expire Oct. 31, and instead of renewing it as in years past, the golf commission has decided to seek bids in search of someone to fill the position. Because of what has been described as the under performance of the course, the commission has considered restructuring its framework based on a three-prong system: replace the professional, replace the concessionaire, and replace the maintenance department.
As we mentioned above, however, Muni is an emotional topic.
Merendo first worked at the course in 1972 when he returned from serving in the Vietnam War, and aside a brief, four-year hiatus during which he switched courses, he's been there ever since. Some long-time local golfers have threatened to take their membership money elsewhere if a change is made. They have been attending city meetings and writing letters to the editor in support of Joe the Pro. To his credit and the city's benefit, Merendo has done a lot for the community and has been a popular pro at Muni. He knows the course and its operation inside and out.
The best way to proceed is to extend his contract for another two years (he'd only be making $24,000 a year, which is a steal based on what other regional golf pros are pulling down). And during this time, the mayor, common council, golf commission -- and, most importantly, Joe the Pro -- should work together to put a plan in place for the future of Muni in the post-Merendo era.
The common desire to shoot first and ask questions later would be in no one's best interests here. What's the plan, if Merendo is cut loose? Is there a plan? Getting rid of him now would be detrimental to the operation of a once-thriving enterprise that could use some tender loving attention.
The time for change is coming; it's not here yet. The time for mapping the future of Muni, however, is now. Joe the Pro's experience should be looked upon as an asset.
As Muni once was.