Notre Dame, Ind. - It’s the first day of summer and Warren Golf Course is perfect. Players teed off as usual Monday morning, facing nothing but smooth fairways and raked bunkers. But Friday night this course was buffeted by a storm that USGA meteorologist Jake Swick said looked like a bomb exploding on the radar.
Swick, who monitors USGA championships to assure that players and spectators are warned of threatening weather, saw the storm coming. At about 5:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, Swick told Championship Director Teresa Belmont that the course was going to be hit by 60 mph winds.
Most of the competitors had not yet arrived. Practice wouldn’t start until the following day, but members of the Women’s Amateur Public Links Committee were playing the course. They stopped play, went into the clubhouse, and minutes later members of the committee and USGA staff huddled in the basement. The storm was going to be a big one.
“It exploded at about 6:30,” Swick said. “We had 75-mph straight-line winds. The weather system is called bow-echo. Thunderstorms were fed by heat, humidity and instability, and then they exploded. Fortunately, it moved through very quickly.”
But not without leaving a wide swath of damage. Trees were down. Limbs, leaves and debris were scattered over the course. A giant oak crashed to the ground, missing the massive new championship scoreboard by two feet. Director of Golf John Foster called in the troops. Green superintendent Matt Cielen and 24 course maintenance workers reported at 5:30 a.m. Saturday to try to restore the golf course. WAPL Committee Chair Stacy Collins enlisted her 35 committee members.
This was a war with nature. Workers used chain saws on fallen trees and limbs, and then carted them off the course. Collins and her committee members attacked the thousands of smaller limbs and branches. Power was out all over town, but one committee member found an open hardware store that sold her eight rakes. Another took water to the workers.
“When we asked the committee to help, there wasn’t even a second thought,” Belmont said. “It was, ‘OK, we’re out there.’ Everyone pitched in and worked hard. The course maintenance crew was already exhausted from having worked so hard the week before to have the course perfect for the championship, but with everyone’s help we got it back in shape.”
“By one o’clock on Saturday, you couldn’t even tell a storm had passed through,” Foster said. Practice rounds began.
The championship goes forward today on a perfectly groomed golf course. Golfers being what they are, however, Belmont seemed concerned about WAPL committee member Angela Stewart’s interrupted round.
“When we had to stop play, Angela had taken only 64 strokes through 17 holes,” Belmont said. “Sixty-four, with one hole to play! Can you imagine that? Rats!”