Just Say No

On Jan. 11 San Diego city councilman Michael Zucchet led a 9--0 vote to block plans for a $3 million Rees Jones redesign of the North course at city-owned Torrey Pines. Torrey's South course, redone by Jones in 2001, will host the '08 U.S. Open.
January 31, 2005

SI: What was your reaction when you learned that the city was seeking $3 million to renovate the bunkers, greens and tees on the North course?

MZ: I was, like, "Who is asking for this?" It certainly wasn't the daily golfer at Torrey Pines.

SI: Where would the money for this project come from?

MZ: It would come out of the Capital Improvement Fund, which is a part of the Golf Improvement Fund. That money comes from the greens and cart fees at three San Diego municipal courses.

SI: What has been the public reaction to your vote?

MZ: Overwhelmingly supportive. The vast majority of regular players have said, "Please don't change the North course; specifically, don't make changes like those done on the South course."

SI: Is this personal for you?

MZ: Absolutely. I have a strong emotional connection to Torrey Pines. I've been playing both courses since I was eight years old.

SI: Did the South course redesign factor into your decision?

MZ: When they redesigned the South they turned a one-of-a-kind course into a Rees Jones course with USGA specifications. The city and the course got their U.S. Open, but the average player, a San Diego resident, is left the rest of the year with a much less enjoyable golf experience.

SI: What's the most significant change that Jones made to the South course?

MZ: The length. It's 6,900 yards from the forward tees! The pros play it at up to 7,600.

SI: How popular are you with the Friends of Torrey Pines, the private boosters who raised the $3.4 million for the renovations to the South course?

MZ: A few people have confronted me, but the real undertow is that people have their eyes on USGA events beyond '08, and they think detractors hurt future opportunities. They don't like explaining the recent newspaper clippings to the USGA. --Farrell Evans

COLOR PHOTO CIVIL WAR Zucchet fights for the North.