City rejects PGA Tour’s bid for fungicide use at Harding

The City is standing its ground against the use of fungicides and pesticides at multimillion-dollar Harding Park Golf Course, home of the prestigious 2009 Presidents Cup, as the PGA Tour tees up for the international tournament.

The PGA is pressuring the eco-friendly San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, which oversees the 18-hole public course adjacent to Lake Merced, to use toxins to prevent outbreaks of mold that damage turf.

In a Feb. 20 letter to the Recreation and Park Department, the PGA Tour’s director of agronomy, Paul Vermeulen, encouraged the use of fungicide that The City banned in 1996 to reduce the use of toxins on city-controlled properties, said Chris Geiger, the pest management coordinator with the Department of Environment.

As a result of the 1996 ordinance, San Francisco has rid itself of some of the more toxic chemicals it formerly used, such as a component of Agent Orange, a herbicide used during the Vietnam War to kill plant life that offered cover, and reduced its use of products such as plant killer Roundup by 80 percent, Geiger said.

Harding Park underwent a $23 million renovation that was completed five years ago to bring the course up to PGA standards in order to attract national and international players to The City.

The Presidents Cup, which will be held October 2009, pits 12 top American golfers against a team from around the world, excluding Europe.

It will be broadcast to more than 500 million homes in more than 200 countries, according to the PGA, and is expected to give San Francisco’s top industry — tourism — a bottom-line boost.

The event will be the second major international tournament to be played at the renovated Harding, which was also the course chosen for the WGC-American Express Championship in October 2005.

Geiger said the letter was part of an ongoing dialogue between the PGA and city representatives that also occurred when the American Express Championship came to town.

“They also have their own way of doing things,” Geiger said. “We have to familiarize them with the restrictions they’re working under in San Francisco,” he said.

Geiger said he expected more recommendations to come from the PGA, including herbicide usage to remove English daisies on the course.

Rose Dennis, spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, said the PGA came to an agreement with The City and that department officials were”confident” city policies would be honored by the PGA.

dsmith@examiner.com

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