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Jeongeun Lee6 after finishing on the 18 hole during the second day of the Shoprite LPGA Classic, at Seaview, in Galloway, Saturday, June 8, 2019. (VERNON OGRODNEK / For The Press)

Golf rangers' duties make good ones hard to find

BRIGANTINE — Bill McGarrigel climbed into the driver’s seat of a golf cart with “RANGER” written across the bottom of the plexiglass windshield and headed out to the course of Brigantine Golf Links.

More than two dozen golfers were participating in the course’s weekly Tuesday women’s league, and they all greeted the 80-year-old McGarrigel with smiles and waves.

“Glad to see you, Bill,” one woman shouted. “Try not to drive into the lake this time.”

McGarrigel chuckled and kept driving along the front nine of the course, pausing every so often to make sure there were no backups on any holes.

He rolled to a stop between the second tee and first green and pointed to a row of houses that kept the clubhouse hidden from view.

“I always drive the course backwards so I can really see what’s going on,” McGarrigel said. “One of our biggest problems is when some guys try to get out of paying to play. You’ll have two guys pay for two carts, play the first hole over there, then their friends who are parked out of sight here (on Hagen Drive) will grab their clubs and hop into the carts.”

McGarrigel and rangers on other courses have a tough job.

They are golf’s version of traffic cops. They are responsible for maintaining a proper pace of play while also making sure the course is kept in good condition and the players are having an enjoyable experience.

“It’s mostly a thankless job,” said Ted Wenner, director of golf at Avalon Golf Club in Middle Township. “You don’t get tips, you earn minimum wage and you deal with all types of people. When I find a good ranger, I make sure I hang onto him or her.”

Maintaining the pace of play is a big challenge for rangers/marshals at local public courses.

Golf clubs such as Brigantine and Avalon often draw a mix of golfers that can range from single-digit handicaps to those who play once or twice a year.

“You have to have a lot of tolerance because of the types of players that are on the course,” said Jim Granato, 75, who’s been a ranger at Avalon for 12 years. “We’re in a vacation area. It’s not (a golf destination like) Pebble Beach. The wife and kids are at the beach, and the husband/father comes here and he wants to take his time.”

Most courses want rounds completed between 4 and 4½ hours, but that can be difficult in the summer.

It’s not unusual for Brigantine to have 200 players on a Saturday. Avalon is even busier, with an average of 280 rounds per day in June, July and August.

“When it comes to being a ranger, there’s a fine line between speeding things up and (ticking) people off,” Wenner said. “You have to be diplomatic, especially in this age of social media where everything gets out there.

“We try to keep up the pace of play as much as possible, but every once in a while you get the golfer who says, ‘I’m on vacation, I paid $94 to be out here and I don’t want to be rushed.’ We try to be as nice as possible, but sometimes we have no choice but to ask them to leave. I once had a group of nine guys who were playing too slow, and I went out to them. One guy sees me and says, ‘It’s my birthday.’ I said, ‘Happy birthday, now all nine of you come with me.’”

Brigantine’s proximity to Atlantic City casinos, especially those in the Marina District, means it will also draw some interesting clientele on occasion.

“Back in 2008 or 2009, there were 16 guys here for a bachelor party,” Brigantine Head PGA Professional Gabe DeLiberty said. “Two of the guys drove toward each other in golf carts, and neither one chickened out. They rammed into each other head-on and caused $2,500 in damages to the carts.”

The problems are rare, however.

On most days, things flow smoothly, which allows rangers such as Granato and McGarrigel to interact with the players and try to make sure their experience is enjoyable.

During the women’s league, McGarrigel stopped to chat with a foursome and wound up getting some advice about a local fitness facility that was offering discounts to senior citizens.

“I enjoy it,” McGarrigel said. “I try to get to know the people, find out where they’re from and try to make sure they have a good time.”

Frequent riders say buses in and out of Atlantic City convenient
reinventing AC logo color

ATLANTIC CITY — During the mornings inside the bus terminal at Atlantic and Ohio avenues, a steady flow of people moves in and out to purchase tickets, check schedules or grab a seat and wait.

A large screen displays routes and times, and workers behind glass-enclosed windows answer questions. The terminal’s population is eclectic, a mix of city residents going to work, tourists headed into and out of town, and others just looking for relief from the elements. Outside, a line forms at the stop picking up residents to go to Ventnor, Brigantine, the Hamilton Mall and beyond.

A recent Ducktown revitalization study called the city’s public transportation network “robust” and found that nearly a quarter of residents use public transportation to get to work — more than twice the state rate and four times the county rate.

The bus system is a staple of city living, and frequent riders say getting around Atlantic City isn’t an issue, although they face minor challenges connecting elsewhere in the county.

“It’s just getting used to where you have to go, actually,” said Liz Carasick, of Atlantic City. The 35-year-old lost her license and has been taking the bus for years.

“Going out of the city, there’s a decent amount (of buses), but they need to run more frequently,” Carasick said.

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said getting into Atlantic City has never been a problem for residents, and he doesn’t see the number of routes in the county as an issue either.

From biking to buses, how to get around Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — Like he does most afternoons, Edward Selva, 26, waited for the jitney near Columbia Avenue to pick him up for work. The Lower Chelsea stop is convenient for the 26-year-old food service worker, who lives nearby.

“If their ridership was more, they would have more buses put on,” Levinson said.

Although bus ridership in South Jersey is much lower than in the central and northern regions of the state, it is one of the most popular ways for workers from Atlantic County to get to work in Atlantic City. Almost 9,000 Atlantic County residents working in Atlantic City use public transportation.

Asked how it determines routes, NJ Transit, which operates the 13 routes in Atlantic City, said it constantly monitors ridership patterns to determine whether adjustments are needed.

Because of the 24/7 nature of the casino resort, busing in Atlantic City doesn’t have a “dedicated” peak time.

“Most bus lines that serve A.C. operate 24/7. There is an increase in frequency during the traditional peak times (6-10 a.m. and 4-8 p.m.) on some lines, but most operate consistently throughout the day,” said Lisa Torbic, senior public information officer for NJ Transit.

Steven Ellis, 61, boarded the 502 at the West Jersey Avenue transfer point in Pleasantville one weekday morning in May, on his way into the city for a doctor’s appointment. The stop, which has a large, octagonal plexiglass enclosure, was filled with people waiting for buses. After a brief wait as more passengers boarded, it took another 15 minutes to get into the city. This bus route runs about every half hour from Pleasantville, around the clock. Ellis said it is very convenient.

“I love taking the bus as long as I can catch it,” said Ellis, of Egg Harbor Township, who previously lived in the city. “If you miss the bus, then you’re stuck, then you gotta wait for the next bus or you gotta walk.”

Antonio Flores, 60, of Northfield, lived in Atlantic City for many years before moving to the mainland. Flores, who works a swing shift at Harrah’s Resort, said he has never had a driver’s license and doesn’t need one because he takes the bus or finds a ride when he needs one.

For Flores and many others, learning the bus schedule was intimidating at first, but they caught on quickly.

“I just had to find out on the bus schedule what time the bus was coming, or better yet I logged onto the NJ Transit app and write the bus stop number and saw what time the bus was coming,” Flores said — NJ Transit buses are equipped with GPS technology that helps users know exactly when to expect their ride.

It is easy to pick up, but the rides can be long, even when traveling a short distance. It takes Flores about 45 minutes to get from his home in Northfield to work in the Marina District. He is used to the wait and often carries a book to read.

Carasick said one of the hardest parts of using public transportation is grocery shopping.

“You have to take everything on the bus, so you have to limit what you’re doing,” she said, and make more frequent trips to the store.

Keisha Jones, 33, of Atlantic City, lost her license two years ago and had to start taking the bus to get to work. Jones, who was riding the 501, said that although she was born and raised in the city, using public transportation was foreign to her.

“I got the hang of it, but it’s frustrating because you can’t do what you want,” Jones said.

People are talking about how to reinvent Atlantic City. Join the conversation here.

Miss New Jersey pageant sees new home and rules

When the Miss New Jersey Competition gets underway Wednesday at Resorts Casino Hotel, it will be in a new home, with new faces and some new rules.

Change has become the status quo for the state and national pageants. This past week, Miss America Organization Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson resigned after just a year, and the organization is searching for a new date and home in Atlantic City for the national competition.

So when the 28 Miss New Jersey candidates arrive in town Monday, they likely will have already learned to expect the unexpected.

Different from last year, all state pageants will host “Miss America 2.0”-style competitions — meaning candidates are once again saying bye-bye to the bikini.

“The biggest thing is, since swimwear isn’t a part of the competition anymore, I’ve had more opportunity and time to work on my social initiative platform,” said Miss Eastern Shores Natalie Ragazzo, 23, of Ocean City.

Ragazzo has been a part of the MAO pageant system since she was a young teen. The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competitions include a “lifestyle and fitness” portion, where contestants sport athletic wear and perform a routine with stretching, flexing and push-ups.

“For me, in the moment, I was disappointed and frustrated that all the hard work I have done was for nothing,” said Ragazzo, who won the swimsuit competition during the first night of the 2018 preliminaries.

“Now, I’m happy with the way Miss New Jersey is. I have learned about my body and being healthy,” she said. “I don’t need to be in a bikini for the judges to know that.”

David Holtzman, executive director of the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation, said this year’s competition without swimsuits will be as exciting and entertaining as past pageants.

“It’s very similar,” said Holtzman “We pulled out the swimsuits, but we did keep our People’s Choice competition.”

The Miss New Jersey pageant, which qualifies the winner for the 2020 Miss America Competition, will have its format divided into on-stage questions from the judges, talent and an evening gown runway.

The 27 local pageants that qualified candidates for Miss New Jersey still had swimsuit competitions, with the exception of the Miss Liberty, Miss Collegiate and Miss Garden State pageants.

Not everyone happy with Miss America swimsuit decision

ATLANTIC CITY — As the tramcar passed Kennedy Plaza on the Boardwalk Wednesday afternoon, a tour guide pointed out the bronze Miss America statue — a popular selfie spot where anyone can be "crowned" a pageant queen.

Holtzman, who was named Miss New Jersey director in December, said he has enjoyed working with the Miss America leadership to improve the state pageant.

“New leadership is listening and taking input. They’ve opened the door,” said Holtzman. ”There have been nice surprises, and it has become more transparent. That’s refreshing.”

Jamie Gialloreto was crowned Miss New Jersey 2018 less than two weeks after the announcement that swimsuits were being pulled from the Miss America Competition. She said she has been very open and transparent with the upcoming Miss New Jersey class, answering questions about the national competition and making sure the candidates feel comfortable with the new format.

“We went in blind,” said Gialloreto. “The competition was changing up until the final night of Miss America.”

Holtzman said he thinks it’s exciting to be able to expand Miss New Jersey — moving the pageant from the Ocean City Music Pier to Resorts’ Superstar Theater in Atlantic City, lining up new sponsorship and adding two more local titleholders to compete for the state title.

“I’m excited about everything,” he said.

Which of these women will be crowned Miss New Jersey tonight?
Take a look at the 2019 Miss New Jersey contestants

Natalie Ragazzo Age: 23 Hometown: Ocean City School: Belmont University – Graduate Platform: End the Stigma-Anxiety & Depression Talent: Vocal