D.C. golf club's greens turn brown as pests threaten Presidents Cup

A worm problem forced the ultra-exclusive Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Manassas to close for maintenance Sunday, only seven weeks before the world’s top golfers and thousands of spectators descend on the course for the biennial Presidents Cup tournament. Microscopic worms called nematodes, which are normally beneficial to turf, have multiplied thanks to recent heat and rain. They’ve already severely damaged six of the 18 greens and affected the other 12 as well, said several sources familiar with the course and the tournament.

A worm problem forced the ultra-exclusive Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Manassas to close for maintenance Sunday, only seven weeks before the world’s top golfers and thousands of spectators descend on the course for the biennial Presidents Cup tournament.

Microscopic worms called nematodes, which are normally beneficial to turf, have multiplied thanks to recent heat and rain. They’ve already severely damaged six of the 18 greens and affected the other 12 as well, said several sources familiar with the course and the tournament.

Almost immediately upon opening in 1991, the demanding, normally well-kept Trent Jones course — which bears the name of the legendary late architect who designed it — became one of the Washington area’s premier private golf clubs. At $125,000 to join, its membership rolls read like a who’s who of Washington’s power elite; count Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Vernon Jordan and former Vice President Dan Quayle among them.

And many of them are upset at the turf problem, given that they pay hundreds of dollars per month in dues for maintenance and the fact that neighboring courses are not similarly afflicted.

“It’s depressing,” said one member who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

The club hosted the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994 and again in 1996 and 2000. The team competition functions just like the more storied Ryder Cup, only instead of playing a European team, the top U.S. players compete against non-European international players. This year’s event takes place Sept. 19-25.

President Bush will be the honorary chairman of this year’s tournament, following President Clinton, President Ford and Bush’s father, who have done the honors in past years. Clinton and both Bushes have played the course several times.

“It ain’t called the Presidents Cup for nothing,” said a source with knowledge of the event.

Which has club and tournament officials understandably nervous. “They’ve got every agronomist short of God looking at it,” he said.

When asked about the problem, George Burger, the vice president of the club and tournament chairman, said, “We don’t talk about the course” but allowed that “we’re always closed for part of August.”

But sources say Sunday’s closure comes a week early. Club officials are hoping to reopen to members by Aug. 18.

“We think we’ll be ready to go on tournament day, 100 percent,” Burger said.

Imus makes his political guests squirm

Being a guest on Don Imus’s nationally syndicated radio talk show has been described as akin to playing Russian roulette, since he delights in putting politicians, journalists and other people in embarrassing positions.

Case in point: When Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) appeared on the program Monday to talk about his new book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, Imus noted that “you have six kids. Can I ask a personal question?”

Assured that he could, Imus asked, “Have you had sex with Mrs. Santorum more than six times?”

A nonplussed Santorum answered “yes” and left it at that.
Then, referring to an earlier guest, Newsweek magazine’s assistant managing editor, Evan Thomas, Imus asked, “Did you hear about Evan Thomas? He swims naked up there in Martha’s Vineyard.”
Santorum said he hopes his book sales will take off after his interview, even though Imus said he won’t read the book.

“You’re one of the few politicians who actually keeps your word,” Imus said, “and I think you should be in the U.S. Senate, but I’m not going to read it. I don’t have time.”

And sometimes you don’t even have to be on the program to become an object of the I-Man’s famously irreverent humor, as Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), is finding out.

Still peeved at Coleman for canceling an appearance on the show two years ago to appear on NBC’s “Today” show, Imus yesterday called Coleman “a bucktoothed booger [who is] now begging to be on this program, and he will never be on, ever.”

That prompted NBC diplomatic correspondent Andrea Mitchell to say: “I’m just wondering who hasn’t been insulted on this program.”

Younger Diaz- Balart scores big win

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican congressman from Miami, proved last week that he knows how to get things done in Washington.

The second-term Cuban-American brother of seventh-term Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart slipped a tiny paragraph into the $286 billion six-year transportation bill passed by Congress on Friday that could prove crucial to construction of two new mass-transit corridors in Miami and Dade County worth an estimated $2.2 billion. At the same time, he and his brother and other Florida members inserted a line in the bill that will allow Miami to compete for another $50 milion in matching federal funds for the return of trolleys to downtown Miami.

Mario Diaz-Balart’s accomplishment was hailed on the front page of The Miami Herald on Saturday under the headline, “HUGE RAIL BOOST: A Rookie Congressman Finesses a Funding Coup for Miami-Dade’s Mass Transit System.”

“Both of these items are huge wins for the community — absolutely huge,” Diaz-Balart told the newspaper.
A rookie fellow Florida Republican, Mel Martinez, carried the ball in the Senate. Looks as if both he and Diaz-Balart have shed their rookie status.

Hold that movie premiere; we’re not done voting yet

Not just any two senators could hold up an entire theater of Hollywood actors and assorted Washington VIPs, but early presidential front-runners John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) can.

Actors Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Mark Consuelos and Joseph Fiennes were packed into the Uptown Theater last Thursday for the Washington premiere of their World War II rescue flick, “The Great Raid.” They were joined by Consuelo’s wife, talk-show hostess Kelly Ripa, Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein and several war veterans.

The show was set to start at 7 p.m., after some warm-up music by the U.S. Army Brass Quintet and some words by Weinstein, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker and the two senators.

But the demanding pre-recess Senate schedule had other plans for them. The final vote on passage of CAFTA didn’t occur until 7:52 p.m., leaving the VIPs cooling their heels while Weinstein himself paced the streets of Cleveland Park.

Finally, the pair arrived just after 8:15, to the relief of everyone.

And ever ready with a comment that could come back to haunt him was McCain, who, after noting that he served on the Armed Services Committee with Clinton, remarked that the military has no greater friend than she. Construct your own 2008 pro-Hillary ad around that one.

Reps. Tancredo and King: Conservative twins?

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), the often-controversial conservative, was recently heard joking in the Speaker’s Lobby that when he makes incendiary comments, the fingers inevitably begin to point — at Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

The two, shall we say, could be brothers. Especially when they don their similar-looking glasses.

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” said Will Adams, Tancredo’s spokesman, of his boss’s joking. “Every time he’s not around and we see Steve King on TV, we always joke that our boss is speaking. They do look alike, and their policy stances are similar on a lot of issues.”

For his part, King said he takes the confusion in stride. “Congressman Tancredo says some pretty insightful things I don’t mind having attributed to me,” the second-term lawmaker said. “When they start confusing me with a liberal, then I will be upset.”