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Golfers Promise a Fight on Sharp Park

 
A powerful group of advocates is vowing to keep the links open

The game is not yet over at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica. A powerful group of advocates — some of them as old as this historic 79-year-old course overlooking the Pacific — is vowing to keep the links open, despite the San Francisco supervisors’ vote this week to begin a process to transform this 417 acres of oceanfront land into National Park land.

Supporters of the back-to-nature transformation plan say it will save the city money and help preserve the threatened Californian red-legged frog and endangered San Francisco garter snake. The golfers, however, see the plan as an attack on their pastime and promised a fight.

“It’s evidence of how environmentalists, in my judgment, can get way out of bounds,” said Sandy Tatum, a member of the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame who, at age 91, is more than a decade older than the Sharp Park course.

Tatum, whose name adorns the clubhouse at the Harding Park Golf Club, is a lawyer and a Rhodes scholar, and was a national collegiate golf champion at Stanford 69 years ago — a formidable opponent for the various reptiles, amphibians and environmentalists seeking the transformation.

“Boy, are we going to fight,” Tatum said. “We have access to money.” And they are willing to spend it to keep golfing on the course, known as the poor man’s Pebble Beach.

The golfers have formed an organization called the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, which has been endorsed by Ken Venturi, 80, a San Francisco native and former United States Open champion.

They have the attention of Mayor Ed Lee, who has played at Sharp Park and said he had a “kind of lousy” handicap of 16. Lee said he was considering vetoing the legislation because of concerns raised by San Mateo County officials and Pacifica. Representatives of the alliance protested the Sharp Park legislation during a meeting of a committee of the Board of Supervisors early this month, saying that the course’s low greens fees make it popular with working-class players.

Last month, lawyers for the alliance persuaded a judge to reject a bid by environmentalists seeking an injunction that would have shut down water pumping that is essential for golf operations. Those seeking the injunction, including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, contended that golf carts, lawn mowers and pumps that drain a lagoon on the course were endangering the snakes and frogs.

If Sharp Park is given to the National Park Service, it would become part of a chain of national parks stretching from Pacifica east into the hills and south along the oceanfront. But the transition from manicured greens to managed wilderness could take years, leaving an opening for a comeback by the golfers.

“This place is too sacred to let go,” said Bo Links, a San Francisco lawyer and a golf historian. “We’re going to continue talking. We’re going to talk until we’re out of breath and our hearts stop beating.”

This article also appears in the Bay Area edition of The New York Times.

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