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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
June 23, 2017

Deer Run Golf Course - A Course For The People
Deer Run Pub
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Deer Run Pub
Deer Run Range
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Deer Run Range
By Colin Ritsick


To tell the story of Deer Run Golf Club is to tell the story of Tom Abts. Honest, entertaining, well-groomed and well-received, Deer Run, like its general manager and Head PGA Professional Tom Abts, wasn't always the well-oiled machine it is now. It's late August a little afternoon on Tuesday, the parking lot is full and the tee sheet has more names than blank spaces on it. The Ryder Cup is just around the corner - guaranteed to be a shot in the arm for golf courses in the area. It's Ladies' Day at Deer Run and they're all smiling and chatting after their round over a sandwich in the clubhouse dining area overlooking 18 green. It's all you could ask for on a day (and summer) of heavy rains. Hell, it's enough to make most public courses in the state envious.
But it hasn't always been this way.
"They used to call it Deer Scum!" Abts said as we cruised through the back nine, looking at the McMansions surrounding the course. None of the nice houses and condos that line the course were there in 1991 when Abts was hired as the head golf pro. And to be honest, there wasn't much of a golf course either. And there certainly wasn't a full parking lot.
Abts, a born salesman and marketer, knew that a golf course would only be successful if the people felt comfortable and had fun on it. So he started hosting clinics, he started shaking hands and he started making deals. He started advertising and he starting taking care of the course. Bit by bit, little by little, Deer Run Golf Club started to come together. He never relinquished control, of anything. The liquor selection, the food selection, the cigar selection (a full standing cabinet's worth), the clubhouse design (the quaint old farmhouse that has been completely remodeled), the rates, the leagues offered and the tournaments held; all overseen directly by Tom Abts - then, as it is now.
"This is a course to come out with friends, drink a beer, smoke a cigar and have a good time," Abts said. He's had some good golfers come through over the years - even a couple of state champions, but he knows there's never going to be a Ryder Cup held at Deer Run. It's not about having the best golfers or the lowest rounds. To Abts, it's about having the best place for a community to congregate and enjoy themselves. The fact that the course is kept in impeccable condition is just cherry on the pie.
Barry Provo, Deer Run's Superintendent, does some A+ work. Abts said that when he convinced Provo to join him at Deer Run, he attracted the attention, and not all positive, of the rest of the state. Provo is that good. And his course reflects that. Even after a killer week and a half of rain, which saw other courses in the area completely underwater, Deer Run escaped with just a puddle here or there. And the greens still fly! It was a testament to the consistent effort of the maintenance staff that the course could hold so well and still play like a championship course.
It's as green as it could possibly be, which isn't a comfort to Abts who was nearly pulling his hair out over how wet he thought it was. For the record, I thought it was just fine. The elevation changes and scenic panoramas of the surrounding bluffs leave you feeling like you're playing a mountainside course in North Carolina. It's a straightforward course, no kooky holes. But be warned: don't take the approach shots into the green for granted. There's hardly a trap or hazard protecting the greens - and that's no accident. Abts wants it like that both for the ease and enjoyment of the course but also for pace of play. But every green is slightly elevated or isolated, or has a drop off on one side or the other. Playing for the hole on every green is a silly idea here. Shoot for the middle of the green and try to putt your way home. It's the only way.
Abts and I only had the chance to play nine holes, but in those nine holes not only did he wipe the floor with me, but on three separate occasions, neighbors who were out for a walk stopped to shake his hand and say hello, to talk about their daughters and just catch up. He's a man of the people at a course for the people, and he'll be the first to tell you that if he wasn't Deer Run Golf Club wouldn't be either.






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