Harding to host elite golfers

The City’s premier golf course will host five elite professional golf tournaments starting in 2009, under an agreement approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The deal is expected to bring international attention to the Harding Park course, as the Recreation and Park Department continues to lose money on its operation following an $18 million course renovation.

A Board of Supervisors vote on the agreement was postponed two weeks ago amid opposition from some board members who were worried The City would lose money on the deal with the Professional Golfers’ Association. When the newly renovated Harding Park last hosted a PGA event, the October 2005 American Express Championship The City came up $140,000 short in expenses.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who helped negotiate the agreement, used the two-week postponement to secure private funding to win over opponents.

The original agreement was similar to the October 2005 agreement. The PGA would pay The City $500,000 per event and also sink $500,000 per event into the First Tee Program, a program aimed at exposing underprivileged youth to golf.

Elsbernd amended the agreement so The City would receive $1 million per event and any money left over after hosting an event would go toward the First Tee program. Elsbernd said that he has the commitment of the “philanthropic community” to offset any “shortchange to the First Tee.”

The Board of Supervisors approved the agreement Tuesday in a 9-1 vote. Supervisor Ed Jew voted no, saying he wanted the board’s Budget Analyst Harvey Rose to analyze the amended version.

This year, The City’s six money-losing public golf courses were bailed out with a $1.4 million subsidy from the operating budget. The deficit is expected to grow to $3.5 million in five years unless changes are made.

The Recreation and Park Commission meets Thursday to examine various options to climb out of the red, which includes closure of some of the courses, privatizing operations and boosting the fees.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, however, has his own idea on how to solve the running deficit. On Tuesday, he introduced legislation that would increase greens fees at Harding Park by 15 percent across the board on July 1, which he said would generate $750,000 in revenue. He said that $500,000 more could come from better marketing of the course’s clubhouse and at least $200,000 more by securing corporate sponsors.

“If you’ve got to raise fees in order to keep the business going, you’ve got to do it. You just don’t give the business away. There’s been too much talk out there about leasing this thing out, losing control of it,” McGoldrick said.

The Recreation and Park Commission is expected to make a recommendation on the future operation of the courses to the Board of Supervisors on May 9.

IN OTHER ACTION

HOUSING FUNDS: In an 8-3 vote, final approval was given to spending $28 million of this budget year’s projected $126.6 million surplus on affordable housing. Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Ed Jew and Sean Elsbernd voted against it.

HOME BUYING: In a 9-2 vote, the board approved putting $5 million of this budget year’s surplus into the Mayor’s Office of Housing Down Payment Assistance Loan Program, to help low-income families purchase homes. Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Ed Jew voted against it.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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