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Olmsted Open Friday

There are still foursomes available for the eighth annual Olmsted Open, a golf scramble that will be held on Friday, Aug. 9, at the Delaware Park course. The event, which benefits the Olmsted parks, is a shotgun start at noon.

The cost is $100 a person and covers all the usual amenities at a scramble, including a dinner. For more information, call the Olmsted conservancy at 838-1249.

I know there are a lot of golf benefits this time of year, all for worthy causes. This one provides much-needed help for the Olmsted parks -- Delaware, South Park and Cazenovia -- which are three of Buffalo's civic treasures.

Thomas Herrera-Mishler, the president and CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, is a caretaker and impassioned advocate of the Olmsted parks. Herrera-Mishler, who moved to Buffalo five years ago, feels the residents here don't understand just what rare gems these parks are.

Herrera-Mishler said he spoke recently with Adrian Benepe, the former commissioner of the New York City parks. He said Benepe told him the Olmsted parks were the best maintained system of the nation (Central Park in NYC is a stand-alone park and not part of a system).

You can count me among the guilty. I've spent my share of time in Delaware Park, and come to appreciate its many virtues. I even golf there on occasion. But I had never spent any time in South Park or Cazenovia -- despite taking up golf 13 years ago and priding myself on visiting most of the courses in the area.

So Herrera-Mishler invited me and my wife, Melinda, to play the South Park and Cazenovia courses. Alan Bozer, a lawyer who is on the board of trustee of the Olmsted parks, rounded out our foursome.

South Park, like Delaware, was not originally intended as a golf course. It was, in Herrera-Mishler's words, "just plunked down on our historic landscape." It's a quirky layout, like Delaware. But it's the park itself that is the star. South Park is a marvelous place. I felt guilty of a North Buffalo bias, never having spent any time there. The landscape is magnificent.

Herrera-Mishler is especially proud of South Park, which was built in 1888. He's a landscape architest, like Frederick Law Olmsted, and treats the trees as if they were fond children. What sets the park apart is that the trees are an arboretum collection, one of the most fabulous you'll find.

I struggled to a 44 over the nine-hole course at South Park. Two weeks later, we met again and played Cazenovia. Golfers from the South Towns have told me for years about "Caz," that it's a legitimate nine-hole course. I felt negligent for having not played it during my well-chronicled golf career in Buffalo.

There are around 24,000 rounds a year played at Caz. It's jammed during the summer months. The locals like to refer to it as "South Buffalo Country Club." I was really impressed by the course. It had some length (3,124 yards from the whites). But many of the holes play longer. There are some challenging, uphill holes that make you play up a club.

Bozer had read my recent column about wanting to break 90 again. After the 44 at South Park, he said I would shoot 45 at Caz and he would count it as an 89. He knew exactly where I stood at every step of the round. At the ninth, a tough par-4 over water, I laid up in front of the water in two. Then I hit a 7-iron to about 20 feet.

I heard him muttering to Melinda as I lined up my putt. I figured it meant I needed to two-putt. I yanked the first one five feet left. But I calmly made the comebacker and Alan happily informed me I had shot 45.

I was prouder of a 45 on Caz than the 44 on South Park. But it wasn't really about the score. I was grateful that Herrera-Mishler and Bozer had given my wife and I a chance to experience two of the city's fine examples of landscape architecture. Suffice it to say, Melinda was a lot more impressed with meeting the CEO of the Olmsted parks than seeing me break 90.

Sadly, I won't be able to attend Friday's scramble at Delaware. I'll be at another of Western New York's golfing treasures: Oak Hill in Rochester for the PGA Championship.

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