"She argued that golf is primarily played by white men over the age of 45"

Marisa Lagos posts an item about this week's taskforce meeting to discuss the fate of San Francisco's city courses, and in particular, Sharp Park. Now, I hate to encourage the stereotyping of San Franciscoans. I have to live in the same state as these people, but the item does raise a few questions about the sanity of my neighbors to the north.

There are the locals who want Alister MacKenzie's Sharp Park for soccer fields, even though the course is by no means flat. And then there's this:

The high point of the meeting arguably came when parks advocate Isabel Wade went head-to-head with golf advocate Dave Diller; she argued that golf is primarily played by white men over the age of 45, a statement Diller angrily derided as "racist." Diller's response prompted the packed room to erupt in applause -- though to be fair, many of the people clapping appeared to be white men over the age of 45.

"In June 2007, Lincoln's only fairway mower broke."

LincolnParkpostcardDan De Vries, Eden Anderson and Richard Harris authored a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed column on the latest at Lincoln Park, where the city and residents are battling over the course's future. I can't imagine why it's in poor shape:

Lincoln Park, the city's oldest and most scenic golf course, is Exhibit "A" for the need to change the public golf course maintenance status quo. Lincoln's fairways are a patchwork of gopher mounds, leaky-sprinkler-fed bogs, and brown patches where the water has been shut off to stop leaks. In June 2007, Lincoln's only fairway mower broke. Instead of repairing or replacing it, the Recreation & Park Department mowed the fairways infrequently all summer with a narrow, slow, trim mower, leaving grass so tall that the fairways became indistinguishable from the roughs. After rain, Lincoln's fairways become waterlogged and inhospitable both to golfers and mowers, due to poor drainage system. The quaint, 1920s clubhouse is dilapidated, its public rooms empty, food service minimal and the bathrooms dank. The pro shop and restaurant have been on a month-to-month lease for more than five years, discouraging the concessionaire from making needed repairs. It is more than coincidence that the number of annual rounds declined from 55,000 in 2002-03 to 35,000 in 2005-06, the last year for which complete figures are available. So far as we are aware, the city has no current cost estimates for the needed infrastructure repairs.
And this was disturbing...
Why is this happening? Between the Recreation and Park Department, the Board of Supervisors, and the Mayor's Office, no clear statement has been made of the city's intentions at Lincoln. But one thing is perfectly clear. Lincoln is extremely valuable property, as it adjoins the exclusive Seacliff neighborhood. When neglected or abused, such property becomes target for developers. And thus civic birthrights are lost. At Lincoln, there is an ironic twist to this old story: a so-called friend of public parks, San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council, is calling for construction of an "event center" on Lincoln's famous 17th hole. No details have been released, but an "event center" inevitably means building complexes, roads, parking facilities, congestion, noise and traffic. And all of this in the middle of the famous view of the Golden Gate now enjoyed not only by golfers, but also neighbors, strollers, schoolchildren, bikers, motorists, dog-walkers, birders, museum-goers, not to mention visitors from around the world.

A shame the PGA Tour, which is using nearby Harding Park, can't step in and offer the city some assistance. Then again, maybe some of the city don't want any help. The worse it gets, the less it makes and as the columnists note, the more willing people are to accept redevelopment.  

"We could have one incredible event center on the 17th hole. Nobody has been looking at that."

Thanks to reader NRH for this C.W. Nevius column in the San Francisco Chronicle analyzing the fight for Lincoln Park and other San Francisco city courses.

Bo Links, one of the founders of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, says golfers are planning a march on the Board of Supervisors today. The issue is whether the city should study turning its money-losing golf courses into another kind of recreation facility, like soccer fields, or preserve the fairways and greens.

Guess which side the golfers are on.

"We're going to hitch up our britches and go to City Hall," Links says. "We're hoping to have over 100. And some of the guys are talking about bringing golf clubs."

This, of course, raises two questions:

First, what would you use to get up and down from the steps of City Hall? A lob wedge?

And second, in the midst of so many high-profile and contentious issues, how did the city's golf courses get to be such a hot topic?

That part is simple - the golf course debate has something for everyone.

For neighborhood activists, it is about empowerment. For golfers, it is populism. For Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, it's a labor issue. And fellow Supervisor Sean Elsbernd is talking about governmental red tape. McGoldrick is leery of letting a private firm manage the courses; Elsbernd thinks it could not only work, but make money.

Last Wednesday, the supervisors' Budget and Finance Committee met to consider McGoldrick's proposal to create a golf task force to conduct a three-year study of the "adaptive re-use" of the golf courses.

To the surprise of nearly everyone, the golfers showed up in force, some 50 strong. Richard Harris, another of the founders of the Golf Alliance, says the group made its point forcefully.

"You need professional management for the golf courses," he says. "What you don't need is another three-year study. That's asking to literally study it to death until the golf courses deteriorate so badly it isn't an issue."

"Even I was surprised," said Elsbernd. "What I really appreciated was watching the faces of those who thought this was going to be a walk in the park, so to speak."

In the face of that kind of response, it was decided not to send the proposal out of committee with a recommendation for a yes vote. And Monday, McGoldrick announced that he plans to make a motion to put the matter over until at least next month, meaning that it won't be voted on in today's meeting.

"Which has to be a victory on our part," says Elsbernd.

The golfers may have been slow to act, but they have been fired up by talk that some of the city's courses, like the neglected, but scenic, Lincoln Park, might be turned into a soccer field.

"Or BMX bike runs," says Isabel Wade, executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council. "Or skate parks. We could have one incredible event center on the 17th hole. Nobody has been looking at that."
Oh dear. This is beautiful:
We'll pause here for a moment while the residents of those huge, expensive homes in Sea Cliff consider the implications of an event center around the corner from them. And that's not to mention the fact that any soccer pitch built on the hills and mounds of Lincoln Park would require players to use safety ropes to keep from sliding off the field.

 

The Old Man And The Tee

Golf.jpgThanks to reader Kevin for this Josh Sens profile of Sandy Tatum in San Francisco Magazine, which gets into the politics behind the Harding Park redo as well as the chances of a Sharp Park restoration. A few highlights, though the entire piece is worth your time:

This vision has made Tatum a contentious figure. Some have hailed him as a selfless champion of public good. “The guy gets such a bad rap,” says Tom Hsieh, a San Francisco political consultant who leases Gleneagles from the city and operates the nine-hole course. “He could be out enjoying himself at Cypress Point. Instead, he’s totally committed to doing what he thinks is right for the city.” But Matt Smith, a columnist with the SF Weekly, has cast Tatum as a kind of robber baron, out to pluck from city coffers to provide for fat-cat friends. In this portrayal, golf takes shape as a hobby restricted to the upper crust, unworthy of extensive public investment, and Tatum as an enemy of the Everyman. Suspicion of Tatum is shared, though for different reasons, by some hard-core local golfers, who cherish outings on their low-priced munis, regardless of the shoddy conditions, and don’t see the need for manicured fairways if it means coughing up more green.
And... 
The political consensus is that the status quo isn’t working. But what, exactly, should be done? Whether or not Tatum has the right answers for San Francisco—the Board of Supervisors and the Recreation and Parks commissioners will decide that—he remains the only party to put forth a detailed plan.

“In the case of Harding,” Tatum says, “I didn’t see any way of salvaging the place other than the way that was ultimately taken. It’s a San Francisco asset, and something needed to be done. I can certainly understand the frustrations. But if it could have been done differently—and in a realistic fashion—boy, I wish someone had been there at the time to tell me.”

Now, with Sharp and Lincoln deteriorating, the city is again at a crossroads, and Tatum has again weighed in. His suggestion, which echoes the findings of a 179-page report by the National Golf Foundation (a study paid for with private donations raised by Tatum), is that the city lease its courses to a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit (and Tatum has established just such an organization for this purpose), in turn, would hire private companies to make improvements (new drainage systems, say) and run the courses day to day. It’s an arrangement not unlike the one the city has with the San Francisco Zoo. If such steps aren’t taken, the report concludes, the rising debt and declining conditions of the munis will at some point in the unspecified future cause both Lincoln and Sharp to simply fade away. The city’s own analysis, presented to supervisors in April, confirms that the courses will run deeper in the red if nothing is done.

Only In San Francisco...

Thanks to reader Sean for this Isabel Wade, Jill Lounsbury and Sally Stephens SF Chronicle complaint about San Francisco city golf courses.

They write that the San Francisco city courses are only at 40% of capacity, and therefore they need to be converted into hiking trails. Of course, that's a pretty good number, right? Much more and they'd be a mob scene. To put it another way, the hiking trails they want so badly would lose their appeal at 40% "capacity." No? Anyway...

A 2004 Recreation Assessment Survey conducted by a national consultant for the Recreation and Park Department recommends that the city build 35 more soccer fields to bridge the gap. Recreational needs in San Francisco today are far different than those of 50 years ago, according to the same 2004 study. Survey respondents ranked golf 16th out of 19 on a list of desired types of recreation. In contrast, 76 percent of respondents wanted more hiking trails, followed by more community gardens.

At the same time, a 2003 National Golf Foundation study showed that only 15 percent of golfers in America are minorities and only 23 percent of golfers are women.

 Ah...I knew that was coming.

Golf hardly reflects the diversity of San Francisco compared to many other recreational activities that enjoy broader participation. In addition to hiking trails, city residents want more soccer fields, skate parks, basketball courts, lacrosse fields, dog runs and venues for Tai chi and disc-golf courses. Why aren't the needs of these users being fairly considered?

Venues for Tai chi? Don't they have enough Starbucks already?

There are many creative ideas for the use of one or more golf courses but the only option going to the Board of Supervisors is to lock up four golf courses under lease for 30 years. Sharp Park, the site of both a threatened and an endangered species, could be a wonderful nature center and restored wetland for the Bay Area, with new hiking trails open to all. Lincoln Park, right next door to the Presidio Golf Course, could be changed into a nine-hole course with the other half converted into a golf driving range. This would still leave acres for additional soccer fields, a dog run, hiking trails and perhaps an amazing event venue overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands on what is now the 17th hole.

Oh yeah, the world needs another wedding chapel. Especially one where the weather is so benign and pleasant.

"It's a lot easier to privately fund-raise for the First Tee than it is to privately fund raise for the city and county"

In Ron Kroichick's report on the likely Yes majority for the PGA Tour-Harding Park contract, I couldn't help but find this disappointing:

Elsbernd had delayed the vote two weeks, so he could try to allay his colleagues' concerns. The proposal -- a revision to the city's original contract with the PGA Tour, announced in 2004 -- called for the tour to give the city $500,000 per event and the First Tee program another $500,000 per event.

Under the new terms, the tour would pay the city $1 million for each event. Any remaining money, after the costs of staging the tournament, would go to First Tee, a program designed to introduce young people to golf and "promote character development" through the game.

Isn't that nice? Take away the Tour's impressive donation for the First Tee to make up for bureacratic bumbling.
Elsbernd and First Tee officials feared the board of supervisors would reject the agreement without this compromise.

"It's a lot easier to privately fund-raise for the First Tee than it is to privately fund raise for the city and county," Elsbernd said. "I'm confident if there are any lost dollars to the First Tee, we'll be able to close the gap" with private donations.

 

"This saga vividly illustrates why few big-time golf events are held on municipal courses."

Ron Kroichick does no hide his disgust for the Board of Supervisors in reporting that a lousy $140,000 hang up could cost the city several PGA Tour events, including the President's

Say what you want about Harding Park and San Francisco's latest deal with the PGA Tour. Maybe you consider the Board of Supervisors short-sighted for fretting about $140,000. Or maybe you lament the legacy of Harding's budget-busting renovation, which will keep greens fees high whether or not Tiger Woods returns to the shores of Lake Merced.

Either way, know this: If the supervisors reject the revised agreement, the PGA Tour will stage a tournament on Mars before it comes back to Harding.

This saga vividly illustrates why few big-time golf events are held on municipal courses. In order to do so, tour officials are forced to wade through the thicket of local politics, seldom a pleasant exercise and an especially daunting journey in such a fractious city as San Francisco.

And that is perhaps the saddest bit in all of this, assuming the city blows this.

"How do you charge $155 for a weekend round...without saying this is where Tiger has played and where Tiger is going to play?"

Buried in Ron Kroichick's story about the San Francisco City Council's supposed concern over having lost $140,000 during the WGC-Amex is this:

This issue arises at a time when city officials are grappling with how to reverse steady losses at their six municipal courses. They had hoped Harding's increased visibility would help pay for the course's extensive renovation in 2002 and 2003, which was projected to cost $16 million but ran more than $7 million over budget.

"A lot of people feel burned from 2002 and the way (the) whole Harding rebuild went down," Elsbernd said. "All sorts of promises were made, many of which didn't come true. I think there's a feeling of 'We don't want to touch anything to do with golf.'

"But no matter where we go with golf as a whole, we don't survive without the PGA Tour's presence. Honestly, how do you charge $155 for a weekend round (for out-of-towners) without saying this is where Tiger has played and where Tiger is going to play?"

 

Newsflash! Harding To Get President's Cup

The PGA Tour confirms what Ron Kroichick dared to report a few weeks ago:

Under the terms of the agreement, Harding Park will serve as the host venue for The Presidents Cup in 2009; the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, the Champion’s Tour season-ending event, in 2010 and 2011; an event from the four-tournament PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup series in either 2013 or 2014; and one additional event in the period 2014-2019 to be selected from among The Presidents Cup, a Playoff for the FedExCup event or a World Golf Championships event.

“We are absolutely delighted to reach this agreement with the City, ensuring that Harding Park will continue to periodically serve as the site for some of the TOUR’s premier events,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “As our experience with the World Golf Championships - American Express Championship proved in October, 2005, the golf course is a wonderful venue for the world’s best players, and San Francisco is a terrific host city. Our players and sponsors had a tremendous experience at Harding Park, and we are eagerly looking forward to our return.”

Not to be picky, but shouldn't the Commissioner have referred to the American Express Championship as the CA Championship? After all, that's what it's called on the 2005 schedule, even though it was played as something else. You know, for brand consistency.

WGA's The Last To Know

From Ed Sherman in the Chicago Tribune, following the news that Harding Park would be getting the tournament-formerly-known-as-the-Western-Open:

The former Western Open might really be going west. But in another bizarre twist, it appears as if the Western Golf Association might be the last to know.

The BMW Championship--the new title for the Western Open--will be played at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco in 2013 or 2014, with perhaps another one to be held there between 2015 and 2019, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The BMW would be used to help the PGA Tour fulfill a five-tournament deal it made with San Francisco.

BMW tournament director John Kaczkowski said Sunday he didn't know anything about a proposed move. It seems inconceivable that the tour neglected to contact the WGA to at least say this option was on the table, but sources confirmed that's the case.

"We haven't had any official conversations about San Francisco," Kaczkowski said. He added that the WGA hadn't looked beyond 2010 in terms of rotating the BMW out of Chicago.

But the Tour is claiming the SF Chronicle and AP story on the Harding situation were incorrect:

 

"We're far from the end of the process," Combs said. "We're in the middle of discussions. We need more discussions within the city and our own policy board."

Asked about the possibility of the BMW being held in San Francisco, Combs gave a blanket statement.

"As it relates to the first three playoff events, you'll see some rotation of markets and/or venues," he said.

Harding to Host...

The Western Open the BMW Championship! But it'll be spun as falling in line with the old Western, which moved around the country and was once played at Presidio.

Maybe that year they could play the Western in Chicago on July 4 weekend? Just a thought. The date is open.

Hey, did you know Laurie Auchterlonie won the second BMW Championship at Midlothian? Just an FYI.

Anyway, Ron Kroichick details the move and Harding getting the President's Cup in '09 despite the temptation to bring it to Riviera so that they could play before lackluster crowds and even less enthusiastic corporate support.

The revised deal also will bring the BMW Championship, one of the PGA Tour's "playoff" tournaments, to Harding in 2013 or '14. That event, scheduled this year for Sept. 6-9 outside Chicago, is the third of four postseason tournaments in the tour's new FedEx Cup schedule, a yearlong points race designed to create a climactic finish to the season.

Harding would host one other elite-field, PGA Tour event in the next 12 years, plus the Schwab Cup, the Champions Tour's season-ending tournament, in 2010 and 2011.

The original contract between the city and tour called for five marquee events at Harding over a 15-year period. San Francisco officials hoped those tournaments would help pay for the course's extensive renovation in 2002 and '03, which was projected to cost $16 million but ran more than $7 million over budget.

Harding In 2009 And Never Again?

Ron Kroichick updates the latest at Harding Park, with between-the-lines implications all over the place.

The Tour informally proposed bringing the Presidents Cup to Harding in 2009, a possibility previously reported in this space. City officials are amenable to the Presidents Cup, as long as the Tour provides assurances it will meet the other terms of its contract with San Francisco.

That deal calls for five tournaments in 15 years, starting on Jan. 1, 2005. Those tournaments, according to the contract, "shall include" the Tour Championship, the NEC Invitational or the American Express Championship. Woods outlasted John Daly to win the AMEX at Harding in October 2005.

Here's the catch: As also reported here previously, the Tour has commitments to hold these tournaments elsewhere through 2010 (the AMEX has morphed into the CA Championship and will be played annually near Miami). So, predictably, Tour officials are scrambling and suggesting other events for Harding Park.

Okay, but here's where it gets fun. 

City Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose District 7 includes Harding, insisted he is not worried. But Elsbernd also sounded weary of what he called "this negotiation dance."

"One important thing to remember is we as a city do have a contract with them, so something has to give," Elsbernd said. "At some point, the Tour will have to meet its responsibilities under the contract, because we have met ours. ...

"They have suggested they're in a little bind, and they've made commitments on those tournaments in other spots. We've said, 'Why are we the one with whom you have to break a commitment?' "

So is the Tour offering the Presidents Cup in hopes of getting the other events waved, with the idea being that the President's Cup is just that special? Sure sounds like it. 

Latest On Harding...Nothing New

Ron Kroichick wonders when Harding Park will see the next of its four more contractually obligated PGA Tour events and says the dire state of the other city courses is a big part of the problem:

All the while, there is an ongoing effort to get the National Golf Foundation to offer its analysis -- how much it would cost to renovate Lincoln Park and Sharp Park, so those courses could generate revenue rather than lose money, and whether such a project is even feasible.

These local issues play into the lingering question of when Harding Park will return to the national spotlight. It will not happen in 2007 and it looks like a longshot for '08. Combs essentially dismissed the possibility of the Tour adding another WGC event, one way to satisfy its commitment to San Francisco.

So pay attention when the Tour announces the venue for the 2009 Presidents Cup, a decision likely to come before the end of this year. That remains the most logical match for Harding, though it would require the Tour trusting the city to resolve its economic issues.

Is the problem with the other courses one of design or maintenance? Anyone want to fill us in? And is there any talk of possibly bringing back Dr. MacKenzie's touch at Sharp Park? 

Kroichick on Harding's Future

harding 18.jpgRon Kroichick in the SF Chronicle sheds more light on the rapidly deteriorating Harding Park situation.  

You may recall that earlier this week the Chronicle reported that the cost to redo the place ended up closer to $23 million, raising numerous questions and also hurting the chances of future muni-rejuvenation projects.

Kroichick writes: 

The Tour's contract with the city includes a provision in which it can back out if the course is not deemed in suitable shape. The city also needs to keep Harding in good condition so it can lure coveted non-resident players, who pay anywhere from $82 to $138 to roam the fairways alongside Lake Merced.

Whoa! $138 for a muni?

Macaulay acknowledged his concern about maintaining the course. Tour officials told him they believe Harding needs a gardening crew of 32 to 34, but that's unrealistic given Rec & Park's obvious financial constraints. Macaulay's staff numbers 24, though fewer than 20 are currently working full-time.

An 18 hole country club staff on the big size would be in the 22-25 range. 32-34 for Harding and Fleming?

What a city!

The next event will occur no earlier than 2008, and it will not be the AMEX (now the CA Championship in Miami) or the Tour Championship (tied to Atlanta). The Bridgestone Invitational also is a longshot, despite last week's speculation; the Tour apparently is committed to keeping that event in Akron, Ohio, through 2010. Maybe the Match Play Championship comes here in '08, or the Presidents Cup in '09.

In other words, Harding had a nice run with the PGA Tour. It's only hope now is a USGA event or LPGA major. 

But more importantly, what's going to happen on a daily basis for the people who matter?

Harding's Crunching Numbers

hardingpark18.jpgIn America's Sweethearts, John Cusack's character watches the bizarre new Hal Wideman film as it is being screened, turns to Billy Crystal's publicist character and whispers, "sometimes you look at a film and you say, where did the money go?"

Some are looking at Harding Park today and asking the same thing.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an audit revealed that not only did the city managed to lose $141,619 on the recent American Express Championship, but the overall cost of the course renovation project skyrocketed to $23.6 million, $7.6 million over the original (and excessive) $16 million cost.

The audit also shows how funds meant to improve park and recreation programs for lower-income San Franciscans were borrowed to reinvigorate the public golf courses.

According to Rose, the renovation of the 18-hole Harding and nine-hole Fleming golf courses at Harding Park, which began in 2002, wound up costing $23.6 million, which was $7.6 million, or 47 percent, over the original estimate of $16 million.

The project wound up being a "significant opportunity cost to the rest of the city's recreation and park system," Rose wrote.

In 2001, the Arnold Palmer Golf Management Co., which had reached a deal with the city to carry out the project and then manage the courses, withdrew. Officials tapped state bond funds that had been awarded to San Francisco and that were earmarked for recreation and park projects in underserved or economically disadvantaged areas.

In 2002, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Recreation and Park Department to use the state funds for Harding, provided that the money was repaid with interest from golf course funds within 25 years.

But, according to the audit, city courses lost money in fiscal year 2004-05, needing a $536,000 subsidy from the city's general fund to cover their expenses.

The auditors may get their wish on this next suggestion, based on the Tour Championship setting up shop at East Lake and the WGC events locking in to Tucson, Doral and Firestone.

Citing the losses on the American Express Championship -- which featured the world's top players and was won by Tiger Woods -- Rose recommended renegotiating the city's agreement with the PGA Tour or terminating the deal.

The contract currently calls for five tournaments over 15 years.

Agunbiade, citing broader economic benefits to the city from PGA play, said terminating the agreement would be shortsighted.

William Strawn, a spokesman for the PGA during the tournament at Harding, said the event brought at least $55 million in tourist spending to the Bay Area.

"Although difficult to quantify," Agunbiade wrote, "the benefits to the city go far beyond the dollars and cents which accrue to the Recreation and Park Department."

You may recall that I wrote a Golfobserver column on the high cost to renovate Harding...at the $16 million figure.

Sadly, this revelation may doom future municipal course restoration projects.
 

Harding Wrap Up

Ron Kroichik talks to Sandy Tatum and Chris Gray about Harding. Tatum is hoping for a U.S. Women's Open, which will be tough with Pebble Beach getting one in the near future and David Fay not exactly chairman of the Tatum fan club.

Meanwhile, Gray is having to defend the 18th hole and he raises a good question:

"As I said before the tournament, No. 18 is an awkward drive and somewhat of an uncomfortable hole," Gray said. "The question is, is that a bad thing?" 

More Munis, and How 'Bout Them Scores

golfobserver copy.jpgGolfobserver features Art Spander's take on Harding Park (scores weren't too low, it's passed the test!). I can't wait to heckle Art about this, since he knows there is much more to the game and to courses than birdie prevention. And I just wonder, if 16 under had won, and everything else was the same (leaderboard, crowd buzz/turnout, etc...), would the reaction really be different?  Hope not.

There is also my take on Harding and the Tour's dire need to fine more mid-city munis like it if they want to generate the kind of buzz that their events so rarely have.

Finchem on Harding

Ron Kroichik talks to Tim Finchem about the AmEx and Harding. Finchem realizes that the U$GA will be interested in a Women's or Senior Open after the success of the AmEx. (Uh, for those dreaming of a US Open, remember that is across the lake in 2012, so the earliest they could talk is 2020. And you can probably guess who will be in line to host that year).

But this quote from Finchem says a lot about how the game has changed since the Harding project commenced just a few years ago:  "We thought it would be reasonably good, but it's really been off the charts. I don't think we could have predicted that a course of this length would give the players the kind of challenge it has."

At least he acknowledges that 7,000 yards has become yesterday's 6,300 yards. But one has to wonder if Harding at 7,000 yards could get selected for a $16 million renovation with the driving distance spike making 7,500 the new "championship" standard?