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Champions event refuses to go down the drain

CONCORD, Mass. (AP) — The local seniors tour event has a strategy to deal with the New England weather that could be borrowed straight from the old Boston Braves: Dig and drain and pray for no rain.

A year after calling off the entire 54-hole Bank of America Championship because of rain and flooding, superintendent Paul Miller said new pumps, contours and improvements in drainage will help keep the course dry next month. But not if they get another 12 inches in 10 days, like they did last year.

"There was nothing that's going to hold that back," Miller said at the event's media day on Monday. "With the new improvements, I think we could hold back more water, but not 12 inches."

Instead, Miller said, the pumps and pipes could clear the course of a storm like the one last month that dumped five inches of rain on the area. The Sudbury River rose up to the road, but it didn't spill over its banks and into the course like last June.

When that happened, there was no place to pump the water from the course, and no place for the club's storm drains to flow.

"The severe situations will never stop. We're in a flood plain; that, we'll have to deal with," Miller said. "We can't hold the river back, but we can help it leave as quickly as possible."

Last year's storm left fish jumping on the fairways and greens at the Nashawtuc Country Club and ponds overflowing into new, unwelcome hazards. Organizers first talked about a 36-hole event and decided against using a truncated course that would trim 500 yards and two strokes from the 6,741-yard, par-72 course.

"It would be like playing a baseball game with no outfield," Champions Tour tournament director Ben Nelson said after the circuit's first cancellation since the weekend after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Adding to the problem was that the tournament's date - the first weekend in June - was asking for trouble. This year's event has moved from the first week to the third week of the month, when New England weather is typically tamer.

Tournament director Tracy West said she's gotten a good response from golfers who want to return for the longest-running 54-hole event on the 50-and-over tour.

"The guys that weren't able to play last year really missed it," she said. "You can't prepare for something like that. Hopefully, it's a once-in-a-lifetime storm. Twelve inches in 10 days is pretty unusual, even for New England."

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