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One late aeration works for Blissful.

Byline: Bill Doyle

COLUMN: GOLF

In many ways, September is the best time of the year to play golf.

Conditions aren't as soggy as in the spring and the uncomfortable heat of summer is behind us. Many courses are even less crowded because some golfers put away their clubs after Labor Day.

The only problem with this time of year is that courses aerate their greens. Punching holes into greens keeps them healthy in the long run, but closes them for a day or two and makes putting on them adventurous for a week or two. Most courses aerate their greens, pull out the dirt plugs, and cover the holes with sand twice a year, shortly after Memorial Day and again after Labor Day, but Blissful Meadows Golf Course in Uxbridge does not.

In the 17 years that Blissful Meadows has been open, owner Gordon Bliss has insisted that the club aerate its greens only once a year and not until late fall, sometimes as late as late November.

Bliss said he's following the advice of agronomy professors from the University of New Hampshire and the University of Rhode Island, who told him the later you aerate, the better for both the turf and drainage through the winter.

Bliss also wants to keep his greens open and puttable during the prime playing weeks of September.

Despite Blissful's unorthodox methods, its greens rolled true a couple of weeks ago for 36 foursomes in the club's 17th annual Company Open.

"Our members are happy with it," Bliss said. "It's a better arrangement all the way around and we've never had a green go bad on us."

Most superintendents aerate greens in the spring and late summer to soften them and allow them to breathe. Doing otherwise would be enough to make most superintendents, including Blissful's own Patrick Martin, cringe.

"I would like to aerify more often," Martin said. "It makes it easier to maintain the greens at a healthier level, but I can't argue with the way our greens are."

Martin has been the superintendent at Blissful for three years, and he said the superintendent before him didn't fully agree with aerating only once a year either. But they followed the boss's wishes. Blissful's greens have shown no ill effects and they're not bumpy in September like other clubs' aerated greens. Blissful also saves on sand and manpower.

In early June and August, Blissful overseeds and punches its greens with thin, solid tines - or spikes - so there are no cores to pull up.

"It leaves no damage to the greens whatsoever," Bliss said. "You can play right behind it."

The greens are seeded and punched a bit deeper with slightly longer tines in July. But, again, no dirt plugs are pulled up. In November, Blissful deep-core aerates its greens, pulls out the plugs, cleans off the greens, and fills the holes with sand. The cores remain open through the winter so the greens can drain and water doesn't freeze on top of them.

Bliss said he's surprised more clubs don't aerate as late as Blissful.

Superintendents insist that September is the best time to grow grass and heal punch holes. Bliss doesn't want his punch holes to heal over the winter. If the greens are sealed, water can settle on them and destroy the roots.

By aerating them in late November, Blissful is able to keep its greens open during the winter as long as it doesn't snow. The water seeps through and the greens don't freeze as often.

Martin knows of no other course that aerates only late in the fall and has greens as nice as Blissful's.

"It works for us, that's all I can say," Martin said. "I know the turf would be healthier (if Blissful aerated in spring and late summer), but I can't argue with the conditions we have right now."

*spthed*@

For Jeff Zmayefski, it was a long drive competition in more ways than one.

Zmayefski, 33, of Auburn, drove six hours to Victoriaville, Quebec, to take part Saturday in a regional qualifier for the World Long Drivers of America finals.

Zmayefski made the six-hour drive well worth it by booming a career-best, 412-yard drive to win the regional qualifier. The closest competitor was 25 yards behind. Zmayefski hit a drive 376 yards on Friday in the local qualifier to reach the regionals, then rocketed drives of 390, 395 and finally 412 yards to eliminate his competitors.

Zmayefski has qualified three times for the worlds, which are set this year for Oct. 23-25 in Mesquite, Nev. He qualified in 2004 but didn't go, and he finished in the middle of the 128 competitors in 2005. His sights are set higher this year.

"My goal is to win," he said. "If I hit another drive of 412 yards, I think I'll do OK. The way I'm hitting it right now, I've got some good swing thoughts and I think I can do pretty well out there."

A tip from a contestant in the senior division last weekend helped Zmayefski drive the ball farther than ever. The contestant advised Zmayefski to keep his body behind the ball and move his hands in front of his body as soon as he could on his downswing.

"It seemed to work out pretty good," he said.

After advancing in local qualifying in Hooksett, N.H., Zmayefski failed by less than a yard to survive the regional qualifier in Pennsylvania last month. So he headed to Canada and posted a victory in Victoriaville.

Zmayefski is only 6 feet tall, 215 pounds, so how does he hit it so far?

"I swing hard and I'm a workout fanatic," he said.

Zmayefski lifts weights an hour a day, five days a week at Bay State Gym in Worcester. Leg strength is vital to long drives, so he regularly hoists 400 pounds on his squats. Zmayefski has had strong legs ever since he played on travel hockey teams as a youngster.

In addition, he takes 45-minute exercise cycling classes two or three times a week at Mass. Mutual, where he works. So he knows what he's doing when he teaches fitness three nights a week at Auburn High.

Thanks to his rigorous training, a sore back is never a problem even though Zmayefski hits balls as hard as he can three days a week at Auburn Golf and Learning Center and Tatnuck Driving Range.

"I'm completely addicted to it," he said.

Zmayefski isn't in the sport for the money. In addition to expenses, he must pay $40 for each half-dozen balls he hits at local qualifying sites, plus a $125 entry fee for the regionals and $200 for the worlds. Contestants must wait until the worlds to receive prize money, and only the top 24 receive any.

Mike Dobbyn of LaVerne, Calif., did pocket $125,000 for winning last year's worlds, though. He drove the ball 385 yards in the last of the 12 rounds. NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry drove it 349 yards to win the 2007 Grand Champion Division for contestants 61 and older.

Zmayefski isn't just a long driver, he's also an excellent golfer. As a senior at Leicester High in the spring of 1993, he won the Central Mass. championship and he still carries a handicap under 5.

If Zmayefski wins the worlds, there shouldn't be any problem coming up for a nickname for him. How about the Auburn Rocket?

Change at Mount Pleasant

The board of governors at Mount Pleasant CC in Boylston approved a motion last week to search for a new head golf pro for next season. Todd Scarafoni, the club's head pro the past four years, will remain until the end of next month.

Scarafoni is scheduled to be sworn in as the Central Mass. representative on the New England PGA Board of Directors on Oct. 24.

Nashawtuc still hopeful

Tracy West, tournament director of the former Bank of America Championship at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, said yesterday she still hadn't found a title sponsor for next year's event, but still was negotiating with two companies. The current economic climate isn't helping and time is running out, but West said she'll remain optimistic as long as negotiations are ongoing.

Bill Doyle can be reached by email at wdoyle@telegram.com.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 25, 2008
Words:1385
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