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Trump Right on Course

Times Staff Writer

Donald Trump didn’t need to say, “I told you so.” He let Trump National Golf Club say it for him.

The course, which famously fell victim to a landslide in 1999 and less than three months ago appeared far from ready for any kind of significant event, sits above the Pacific Ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes, completed and ready to accommodate the LPGA Tour’s Office Depot Championship beginning Friday.

There were plenty of doubters when the rebuilding project began a little more than a year ago, but when workers laid the final sod on the driving range last week, Trump had the last laugh.

“I knew exactly where we were in the process the whole time and I never had a doubt we’d get it done by the tournament,” the club’s owner said in a telephone interview. “For me, doing this is very easy. I’m a builder. That’s what I do.”

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Among the most concerned were LPGA staff members responsible for staging the tournament. Six months ago, huge mounds of dirt dotted the course; several of them remained only 10 weeks ago.

At the end of July, Trump had yet to secure the permits required to build a driving range. Around that time, the huge two-tiered waterfall near the first green was still under construction.

“We had general concerns from Day 1 because of the aggressive nature of the changes that needed to be made, but as the weeks and months followed, they met all the time lines that needed to be met,” said Barb Trammell, the LPGA’s vice president of tournament operations. “As we got closer to the tournament date, I became more and more confident.”

The major part of the rebuilding -- repairing the landslide that destroyed portions of the 18th hole -- was a four-year process that involved moving more than 1 million cubic yards of dirt. That was completed almost a year ago when the redesign project had just begun.

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Work crews widened fairways, lengthened holes, rebuilt greens and, in some cases, rebuilt entire holes. Over the last six months, about 50 workers and at least five earth-moving vehicles worked 12 hours a day, six days a week.

“It goes from dirt to grass very quickly,” said Vincent Stellio, the Trump Organization vice president in charge of development. “Most people saw all the dirt and thought we weren’t going to be ready in time. As long as I could secure the permits to start, I was always comfortable with the ability to finish it.”

Building the waterfalls at the first and 17th greens required gathering stone from all over the golf course. Tons of boulders had to be moved, broken up, fitted into place, waterproofed and painted.

After the landslide repair, the waterfalls were the most painstaking part of the project, Trump said. The waterfall at No. 1 was completed about six weeks ago, but its construction delayed planting of the green. That was another concern of the LPGA, but except for a patch in the front of the green, it’s in good shape, Trammell said.

“We were very closely monitoring this project,” she added. “We were in close communication with the project manager and superintendent and at this point everything is good to go.”

Opening the course to the public is a different story. Trump has a special-use permit to stage the LPGA tournament, but the course has not yet been approved for a public opening. The city of Rancho Palos Verdes is still awaiting final reports from Trump’s geologists. Approving them is a process that could take months.

“There is still quite a bit of work to be done,” said Greg Pfost, the city’s deputy planning director. “It will take some time to review because there is nothing simple with geology on that site. But it’s not the city’s intent to hold them up from opening.”

When it does open -- course officials are hoping to obtain a temporary permit by Halloween -- Trump expects a sight to behold.

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“I started out to build something spectacular,” he said. “And it came out even better than my expectations.”

But for now, the focus remains on getting through the LPGA tournament.

“It’s been ... a scramble would be a good word,” Pfost said. “Over the last four to six months it’s been pretty crazy. I know [Stellio] was under a lot of pressure to get things done and what they’ve done in a short time is pretty amazing.”

Getting the job completed, course General Manager Mike van der Goes said, saved a lot of red faces.

“It would have been very embarrassing,” he said.

*

THE FACTS

The Office Depot Championship

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at Trump National Golf Course

Friday-Oct. 2

*

Office Depot Championship

Facts and figures on next week’s LPGA tournament:

* What: Office Depot Championship.

* When: Sept. 30-Oct. 2 (pro-am Wednesday and Thursday).

* Where: Trump National Golf Club, Rancho Palos Verdes.

* Course: Par 71, 6,394 yards.

* Format: 54 holes.

* TV: The Golf Channel (1:30-4 p.m. each day).

* Defending champion: Annika Sorenstam, by three strokes over Ashli Bunch and Meg Mallon at El Caballero Country Club.

* Tickets: $25 ($15 for seniors), available at the gate.

* Past winners: At Wachesaw Plantation, Murrells Inlet, S.C. -- 1997, Karrie Webb; 1998, Webb; 1999, Rachel Hetherington; 2000, Grace Park. At Wilshire Country Club -- 2001, Sorenstam. At El Caballero Country Club -- 2002, Se Ri Pak; 2003, Sorenstam; 2004, Sorenstam.


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