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Harutunian has Kettle friendly and quick.

Byline: Bill Doyle

COLUMN: GOLF NOTES

Five years ago, Dave Harutunian played a round of golf at Kettle Brook Golf Club in Paxton and never left.

When he arrived at Kettle Brook that day, Harutunian saw a sign advertising for cart attendants. He called his wife and quit the job he had taken a few months before as a pharmacy manager to wash carts and play free golf for awhile.

About a month later, the golf shop manager left and Harutunian took his place. The following year, the general manager, Scott Hurt, moved to Ohio and Harutunian replaced him. Harutunian had worked in management at several places, including Leitrum's Pub, but Kettle Brook was the first golf course he had managed.

"It's just like managing a bar," Harutunian said. "It's just over 220 acres. It's all about costumer service."

Harutunian considers speeding up the pace of play to be his biggest accomplishment.

"Before I came here, we were known for six-hour rounds," Harutunian said.

The starters and rangers keep play moving now, and the goal for an average round is 4-1/2 hours.

Signs on carts inform golfers they'll must close the gap on the first warning if they fall behind. They must skip a hole on the second warning if they fall a hole behind, and a ranger will send them back to the golf shop for a rain check for the remainder of their round on the third warning.

"We'd rather have four people mad than 40," Harutunian said. "Nobody wants to be behind slow players."

At the same time, Harutunian worked to make Kettle Brook a friendlier place to play.

"You go to these courses and they treat you like they're doing you a favor," Harutunian said. "There are so many courses around. Let's be the friendliest."

Matt Pooler mowed designs in the outfield at Fenway Park before becoming superintendent at Kettle Brook. While the eyes of most Sox fans are glued to the batters, Pooler focuses on Fenway's grass.

"My wife can't stand it," Pooler said. "I have a hard time if something is a little crooked."

While attending the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts, Pooler served internships at Fenway Park as well as Pleasant Valley. The Red Sox roll their grass so the ball hops high and they learn to play it that way, he said.

Pooler, 28, stripes his own front yard in Holland, but his back yard isn't anything special.

"I have three dogs," he explained.

Pooler has been Kettle Brook's superintendent for two years after serving as an assistant for two.

Kettle Brook presents different challenges than Fenway Park. Because Fenway is only three acres, it requires a lot more detail work. Kettle Brook is 220 acres, including wetlands. Pooler has dried out holes 2-5 by increasing aeration and using wetting agents to make the water penetrate. Golfers no longer have to worry about keeping the club's new 85 electric Yamaha golf cart on the paths on those holes on most days.

Word about Kettle Brook is getting around. On Monday, George Glendenning, 71, made the 1-1/2-hour drive from Niantic, Conn., and carded the fifth hole-in-one on the 251-yard, par-4 13th hole since the course opened in 1999. That's the hole with a silo and the club driveway on the left. It was the first ace for Glendenning. No one has aced any other of the par-4s at Kettle Brook.

Oak Hill document fids a home ...

When Rosemary Smith read in a July edition of this golf column that Tom Bagley was researching for a book on the 100th anniversary of Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg, she knew she had found a home for a document her husband had stumbled upon nearly 30 years ago - the general plan of the club's original front nine designed by Wayne Stiles.

As the executive director of the Fitchburg Housing Authority, Warren Smith was investigating a property at 16 Prospect St. that the authority planned to purchase and convert to housing for the mentally disabled. At one time, the house had been owned by wealthy businessman Dennis Dillion, whose father had been one of Oak Hill's founders. In what Smith thinks was a maid's bedroom on the third floor, he found the general plan, dated November 1920, ripped in half on the floor of a third-story closet.

Smith, 81, had caddied at Oak Hill prior to World War II and his father was a member so the general plan attracted his interest. Smith had the document, restored, mounted and covered to preserve it.

"I'm not quite sure what I had preserved it for, but recently my wife got tired of seeing it around," he said.

So Rosemary was glad to offer the general plan to Bagley and the club. Through the years, Smith had told a few Oak Hill members about his find.

"They kind of shrugged it off, and I dropped the matter," he said.

Bagley, on the other hand, gladly accepted the document on behalf of the club.

"I've seen some old, old blue prints that weren't much," Bagley said. "Instead, she comes walking in with the original general plan. There's a few creases and a few wrinkles, but it's in beautiful condition."

Bagley estimated the full-color general plan is about 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. It details the routing of the front nine with yardages and bunkers, as well as the location of the original clubhouse, tennis courts and walkways. The general plan confirmed Bagley's research that the second hole was originally a straight-away par four before Donald Ross changed it to the dogleg right it remains today. The plan informed Bagley something he didn't know - a trap shooting range was designed on the site of the current 18th green. He isn't sure if the trap shooting range was ever built. Bagley knew that Stiles was a landscaper who later got into design, and he hadn't been impressed with some old pictures of the course, so he had expected the original Oak Hill design to be somewhat rudimentary.

He was pleasantly surprised with the detail of the general plan and the number of bunkers Ross must have removed. The general plan listed a par of 35, but also an MGA handicap rating of 38. So Oak Hill wasn't an easy course.

"It was obvious, based on this plan," Bagley said, "that it was meant from the beginning to be a very sophisticated golf course. A lot of effort went into developing this plan."

Ross designed the second nine holes which opened in 1927, then redesigned the front nine.

Bagley made a digital image of the general plan for his office, but the original will be hung in Oak Hill's clubhouse. Oak Hill president Ron Feldman wrote to thank the Smiths for donating the plan and invited them to dine at the club

"The (T&G) article was very timely," Bagely said, "because otherwise who knows what would have happened to this thing?"

If the general plan had remained at the club over the years, it would have likely been destroyed. Oak Hill's original clubhouse burned down in 1941.

The club does not possess the general plan for the back nine. Oak Hill was able to obtain copies of the back-nine hole cards from the Tufts Archives in Pinehurst, N.C., the repository for Ross memorabilia, but Tufts does not have the general plan.

Interestingly enough, the cover sheet to the hole cards in Ross' writing said to send the original plan to Fred Dillon, Dillon Boiler Works, Fitchburg. Smith found Stiles' plan in Dillon's son's former home.

"So there may be a general plan by Ross kicking around some place," Bagley said. "It's just a matter of unearthing it."

After receiving the front-nine general plan, Feldman wrote to all members asking for help in locating the back-nine plan. Feldman didn't urge them to look in their closets, but maybe he should have.

Leicester CC woth a try

Thanks to first-year superintendent Cory Bledsoe, Leicester Country Club is in its best shape in quite awhile. If you haven't played the course lately, it's worth another try.

The new elevated back tee gives the par-3 17th an entirely different look, playing 225 yards.

Head pro Rick Morus said the new tee with a covered bridge in the background is popular for wedding photos with couples who hold their receptions at the club.

Vana's the favorite - again

You don't have to think very hard to come up with who will be favored to win the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship tomorrow through Wednesday at Cohasset Golf Club.

It's Frank Vana Jr., who has won the event in seven of the last eight years.

The only time Vana didn't prevail was in 2004 when the tournament was shortened by rain to 18 holes and Andy Drohen came out on top. The event is open to amateur golfers aged 25 and older.

In the USGA Men's State Team Championships last week at The Woodlands, Texas, Vana shot a 54-hole total of 1-over 217 to tie for 20th individually and help Massachusetts tie for 11th at 1-over 433, 11 shots behind first-place Texas.

Vana played the par-4, 423-yard fifth hole in 6 over and the other 17 holes in 5 under for the three days.

Also for Massachusetts, Bill Drohen, Andy's brother, tied for 16th at even par and Northboro native Kevin Quinn tied for 127th at 16 over. The top two scores counted each day.

Contact Bill Doyle at wdoyle@telegram.com.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: A silo defines the 13th hole at Kettle Brook GC.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff File Photo/MARK C. IDE
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 23, 2007
Words:1612
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