Delano Golf Course sign

This is the sign for the Delano Golf Course, which has been closed since June. It is expected to reopen next month, after the Delano City Council voted 4-0 to grant a contract to manage the course to a local group.

On a unanimous 4-0 vote, the Delano City Council voted Monday, Oct. XX, to allow Delano Golf Management Group LLC to operate Delano’s Municipal Golf Course.

The nine-hole course that straddles Delano’s Memorial Park has been closed since June. That’s when the previous operator, Monterey Golf Management Group, ended its agreement with the city.

The person behind the local golf group is Merlin Sorbito.

“We are working together with the city of Delano to provide a quality golf course to the community,” Sorbito said Saturday.

The latest agreement is set to last for five years.

Sorbito’s group met with Delano’s golfers last week to try to get a sense of what changes they would like to see. They are committed to helping the new group succeed.

He estimated 30 to 40 different golfers play multiple times a month, and about 15 to 20 golfers play rounds multiple times a week.

The group hopes to have the course back and running in early November.

Homemade signs say just that to the curious eyes peering at the golf course’s padlocked gates.

As part of the latest deal, the city of Delano will maintain the actual golf course, including cutting the greens and fairways.

Delano City Council member Joe Aguirre said: “It’s a nice golf course, when it is maintained by the city. It’s great that someone that is passionate and knowledgeable about golf will run our course.

“I know the council, as a whole, is very excited. And we can tell that the community is also excited.”

Delano Golf Management Group will put in a total of $120,000, with the city putting in up to $50,000 in reimbursements, to get the course back in shape. That includes current equipment.

Some of the issues the new group will have to deal with is the warehouse that currently houses the golf carts has electrical issues, including the inability to charge multiple carts at the same time without blowing a fuse, Sorbito said. That building belongs to the county.

Delano’s county supervisor, David Couch, said on Oct. 8 the county “will do whatever we can do to make the golf course successful.”

“I will be checking with General Services Department today on that issue,” he said.

“It’s great that a local group from Delano is going to run things at the course,” Couch added. “It’s exciting to see another improvement to Memorial Park, and Delano.”

A huge part of the new group’s philosophy will be to focus on new golfers, especially youth and teen golfers.

The group is working with Delano Police Chief Robert Nevarez to help administer a golfing program for troubled youth.

“The Delano Police Department has already met with golf management and discussed a program to introduce inner-city youth to the game of golf,” Nevarez said. ”The goal is to teach young men and women about the game, focusing on honesty, integrity and etiquette — key elements of golf.”

Sorbito said the group will also be working with Delano Joint Union High School District and its six golf teams (three boys and three girls) to bring them back to play their matches and practice here in Delano.

“Junior golf will be a huge priority for us,” Sorbito said.

The group plans multiple junior golf clinics.

Aguirre said golf will not be the only recreational program the city will collaborate with local school districts.

“We have that window of opportunity with other programs, but we must not pass it up unnecessarily,” Aguirre said. “Having a good golf course raises the quality of life in Delano. “When people get older and more successful, and their children start their own families, they have more time for recreation.”

Aguirre also pointed out that golfers from nearby communities, such as McFarland and Wasco, will also have the opportunity to use the course.

“We have to remember it’s a regional attraction, and we as a community reap the benefits of it,” Aguirre said.

Several groups had shown interest in managing the Delano Golf Course, but in the end, Delano Golf Management Group was the “last one standing,” he said.

“We thought we would put money into it and try to make a go of it,” Sorbito said. “Hopefully, we are going down the right path.”

The golf course is now in fair shape, but needs some fixes like seeding the grass.

The Monterey Golf group had promised to make investments into the course that never occurred. They also ran out some of the regular golfers because of their practices.

“They were just running people away,” he said. “Overall, it was in poor shape.”

“You can’t sell a product that’s not in stock,” Sorbito said.

Gene Garaygordobil is a longtime journalist, Delano resident and editor of DelanoNow.com. He can be reached at 586-4469 or GeneG@DelanoNow.com

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