The Colgate Scene ON-LINE

[IMAGE] At first light the crew, a dozen strong come summer, gathers to disperse, riding machines out over the undulating green. This early in the day Seven Oaks is theirs alone as they primp, fuss, manicure.

The golfers will arrive soon enough but the crew will continue to work; mowing, tidying, grooming.

This is the first summer Colgate's Robert Trent Jones-designed course is in the hands of superintendent Ranjit Sagram-singh, who heads up the crew and is responsible for agronomic decisions, maintenance of equipment, the golf cart fleet, the club house area and budget preparation.

There isn't much time. Depending on the Hamilton winter, the snow peels away anywhere from mid-March (ha!) to April. Once the course is somewhat dry, the crew begins cleaning up winter's debris. Edging the bunkers and marking the course follow. By mid-April the grass is growing and mowing becomes a constant.

"Weather dictates everything," says Sagramsingh, who took up golf ten years ago. The economist and accountant (and New York City deli owner) was so intrigued with the game he enrolled in SUNY Cobleskill's four-year turf management program.

"Seven Oaks is a very very difficult golf course," according to the superintendent. "It's tough to get the first shot in position to reach the greens in regulation."

Sagramsingh and crew have made some changes. The fairways, once dominated by straight lines, have been contoured to follow the topography. They are also mowed in a criss-cross manner and clippings are picked up.

"The fairways are immaculate," says Seven Oaks pro Marion Burke. "They hold the ball better and it is easier to hit. Ranjit has done an outstanding job. He has a great technique on the greens and he really seems to have tender loving care."

"I prepare the course for members and alumni. We want to present a product that is always in good condition," says Sagramsingh, who acknowledges it takes a cooperative effort. Golfers need to adhere to golf's rules of etiquette

and treat the course with respect, which includes replacing divots, driving carts with care and not using the links as a practice range.

The superintendent and crew lavish attention on the 110 acres, looking out for the bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass, on guard against wilt, blight and rot. And while they may wish for a better irrigation system and cuss the weather, Ranjit learned early on "you have to tailor your agronomic practices to whatever environmental condition is prevailing at the time."

Even with all the care, with all the little changes that add up to a sparkling golf course, Sagramsingh knows his clientele. "Golfers are a strange breed. If they play well, the course is in great shape. If they don't, it's always the course or the clubs."

Early afternoons are Sagram-singh's favorite time on the course. "The dew is off, the sun is high. It's the time of day when you see the flaws. In all honestly the golf course is in excellent condition right now.

"I like the game of golf," says Ranjit Sagramsingh, who plays to a 12-handicap. "If I can satisfy myself, I can satisfy most of the people who play the course."     JH