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Its the final tee for Top OScott

Venerable golf course is set for a spendy condominium face-lift

Picture rural roads, farms and tall timbers, and you have the setting for Top O'Scott Golf Course in 1926, the year it was built.

No Interstate 205, no congestion on Sunnyside Road, no Clackamas Town Center, no $500,000 homes, no strip malls, no fast-food restaurants and hardly any people. You could stand on the 14th green, as William Miller remembers doing, and take in much of the east side of Portland and scenic vistas off to the west.

'It was a super golf course,' says Miller, 88, perhaps the only person still alive who played the course then named City View in '26. 'Such a picturesque course.'

The poor man's country club of the 1940s, '50s and '60s was a place where kids splashed in the swimming pool, neighbors reveled in the restaurant and bar, riders walked their horses on a path around the course and the best competed in the 1954 Oregon Open. Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Jimmy Demaret played the money games.

While still picturesque, Top O'Scott is not the place to be anymore. Miller, for example, lives in Woodburn and mostly plays there. The Top O'Scott men's club has dwindled to 12 members from about 30 in 1997. A parking lot sits where the pool once did. The restaurant is used for storage. The fairways that once stretched to Sunnyside Road are covered with office buildings.

Top O'Scott is on the verge of being Gone O'Scott. Development is expected to swallow what remains of the nonregulation public course at 12000 S.E. Stevens Road, possibly within the next 30 days.

Construction crews and bulldozers will be summoned to take everything out the rickety old clubhouse, the driving range and even the 14th green; everything from the cemetery on the north to the bricked corporate buildings on the south.

'We're going full blast,' says developer Neil Nedelisky, president of Show Timber Co.

On the 93 acres will go 72 homes, 203 condominiums, a corporate and retail park and a couple of golf courses even smaller than the current, par-68, 4,887-yard layout. There will be 27 holes of pitch-and-putt with holes ranging from 45 to 90 yards, and 36 holes of a miniature golf-like putting course.

Price tag for Eagle Landing Family Golf Center: $250 million.

Commitment to golf

Nedelisky grew up in Portland and played Top O'Scott in the 1960s.

'It used to be 150 acres and went out to Sunnyside Road,' he says. 'As a 16-year-old, I said on the ninth hole one day, 'Someday I'm going to own this thing.' '

He says he has put about $500,000 into the course, but debt has been high and 'the course over the last 20 years has not been viable. Since 1973, it's been losing money. Golf was gone when I got here. It was dried up. We've got a real commitment to golf on this property.'

If all goes as planned, crews will build the golf courses, seed them in September, and they'll be ready by spring 2004. The pitch-and-putt will be 1,161 yards and the first of its kind in Portland, PGA pro Scott Nash says proudly. 'Let's do it in feet. Sounds better,' Nash muses. 'We'll do the mini in inches.'

The homes will range from $350,000 to $650,000 and be built by Renaissance Homes, a Street of Dreams regular. A 14 1/2-foot bronze eagle will represent the neighborhood.

The area also will include 30 acres of parkland, half leased by Clackamas County as open space. Two roads, Causey and William Otty, will be extended to link Southeast 122nd Avenue and Stevens Road to serve the neighborhood.

Nedelisky, who calls the development 'first class,' says the business park, dwellings and golf will fit nicely into the ever-evolving Sunnyside area.

Nash was a Rock Creek Country Club pro for nine years before Nedelisky hired him to manage Top O'Scott in 1996. When Nash arrived, the carpet in the clubhouse-restaurant hadn't been changed in 25 years, he says.

'I got guys still dragging hoses and sprinklers to water here,' Nash says of Top O'Scott, which kids used to call Top O'Rock because of its infamous brown fairways. The water system they run uses pipes from the World War I-era battleship Oregon.

'Can't wait to just push a button' for sprinklers, Nash adds. 'My goal is to make the best greens in Portland.'

Nash says Eagle Landing will be ideal for all players who want to work on their short games. The main 18 holes will feature29 white-sand bunkers. Greens fees are likely to be $13 during the week and $14 on weekends; it'll take 1 1/2 hours to play.

'It fits a need,' Nash says. 'It's not intimidating to people. A lot of people are intimidated by a normal course.'

A banner year

Nash says the miniature golf course will be different than others, with elevation changes, two waterfalls, ponds, creeks, rock landscape and flowers. 'No clown's mouth or windmills,' he says. 'Some people might be disappointed.'

In 1997, a year after Nash arrived, Top O'Scott enjoyed its best year ever, benefiting from the Tiger Woods phenomenon, a booming economy and many people at least trying golf. It all helped Top O'Scott rake in some money, even in its sorry state. 'The perfect storm,' Nash says.

'We judge everything by '97,' says Scott Taylor, who works in the pro shop. 'It's been downhill ever since. The last three months have been record-setting bad.'

The beginning of the end came in 1987, when the owners sold off part of the property for commercial and retail development. It went from par-72 regulation to its current, par-68 bastardized size.

'I used to like it before they wrecked it,' says Don Negan, who has played Top O'Scott for about half a century. 'The only decent part now is the back nine.'

And 93 acres are not enough to build an adequate, regulation golf course. Why would golfers play Top O'Scott when they could play Stone Creek, Eastmoreland or Glendoveer? For the fun of playing on the sloping, challenging greens? Says Nash: 'Serious golfers want to play championship courses. Casual golfers don't play often enough. We don't have a base.'

Nedelisky, who bought the property in two phases in the 1990s, battled neighbors over zoning until the developer got the property rezoned and received the approval of Clackamas County for mixed-use and 30 acres of open space in 1998.

'We didn't want it,' Negan says of the development. He lives on nearby Southeast 108th Street. 'It was the density. They originally wanted apartments, but they've tempered it a bit.'

Nedelisky so far has only submitted a permit to grade the property. Doug McClain, Clackamas County planning director, says things are progressing and work could start within 30 days.

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