Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Off to a Flying Start

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Off to a Flying Start

Article excerpt

Mark Lee wakes up each morning by 7 o'clock and, if the weather forecast is good, he heads to the golf course.

Except for the recent rain, the weather has been so incredibly good this year that the 70-year-old Wayne resident estimates he has played 120 rounds of golf during the first five months.

"I'm not getting tired; I'm getting stronger," Lee said last week as he sat in the clubhouse at Preakness Valley Golf Course in Wayne. "Sometimes I play 27 holes, 36 holes."

Open year-round, weather permitting, the 36-hole Preakness Valley (formerly known as Passaic County) is off to a blistering start, thanks to one of the warmest winters on record and an equally mild early spring.

Warm weather has North Jersey golfers flocking to Passaic's lone county-run course, and Bergen's five county-run courses: Darlington in Mahwah, Orchard Hills in Paramus, Overpeck in Teaneck, Valley Brook in River Vale and Rockleigh.

"I feel like it's September and October and it's only May," said Nick Roca, in his 14th year as Preakness Valley's course manager.

"We're definitely off to the fastest start in the years that I've been here," said Kevin Purcell, in his 17th year as general manager of Bergen County-run courses.

Hawthorne's Thomas Baviera, 71, a 14 handicap who works as a cashier at Preakness Valley, said, "This is the best weather we've had in 50 years."

The winter of 2010-11 and 2011-12 were polar opposites, and that's reflected in the number of days Preakness Valley was open the first five months of 2011 and 2012. In 2011, the course did not open until mid-March, Roca said, while in 2012, it has been open for all but a handful of days.

"Even our maintenance guys kept looking at the 14-day forecast to see when it was going to change and get consistently cold," Roca said, "and it never happened."

Preakness Valley is a happening place. During the first four months of this year, there has been more than a 300 percent increase in rounds compared with 2011, according to figures provided by course administrators. …

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