Northeast courses bounce back thanks to The Plan

By Jason SobelNovember 2, 2012, 9:36 pm

It is a feeling that arrests every single person who has endured a natural disaster. It grips you more than fear, vanquishes all of the anger. It is a sensation that overcomes all others, encompassing your physical and spiritual being until it’s the lone thought surviving in your mind.

It is the feeling of helplessness.

In the wake of this week’s Hurricane Sandy that wrought more than 90 fatalities and billions of dollars in damage, it’s a feeling that has permeated throughout the Northeast states. Its residents were unable to block the severe winds, powerless to the watery deluge that attacked from above. And so it remains the lone, last expression of pessimism, diverting all other feelings.


Don’t mistake this feeling, though, for a lack of effort or preparation. Being helpless isn’t equivalent in this situation to not trying or not preparing for the worst.

With so much devastation across the Eastern Seaboard, the following remains a miniscule, almost insignificant story in the aftermath, but it serves to prove that theme about helplessness not being commensurate with preparation.

Billy Casper Golf – named for the three-time major champion – owns and manages more than 140 courses throughout the United States, with about 25 in the region most affected by the recent storm. When the company was apprised of the impending weather situation last week, there was neither collective panic nor chaos. Instead, it simply referred staffers at each of those courses to The Plan.

That would be its Hurricane Preparedness Plan, a 10-page document owned and studied by officials at these courses, which serves as a virtual how-to manual not on surviving a natural disaster, but at least anticipating one to the best of their ability.

“It’s not magic,” says Brian O’Hare, the company’s vice president of operations for the Northeast. “It’s just something that we created, really just a lot of common sense put down on paper so that everyone can be on the same page, be prepared and protect our staff, guests and assets.”

The plan consists of four main sections, titled “General Information About Hurricanes and Tropical Storms,” “Hurricane Emergency Procedures,” “Post-Hurricane Procedures” and “Post-Hurricane Considerations.” Each section details the formation of an emergency committee for various parts of the club, pre- and post-storm policies for different time intervals and requisite safety measures.

“We shared that with all of our teams in preparation for the storm,” explains Bryan Bielecki, the company’s vice president of agronomy. “The guys on the ground deserve a ton of credit for getting prepped for the storm. They did everything from loading up on gasoline and gas cans to having all of their chainsaws ready. It’s all part of a communications plan which really worked well for us. That’s the meat and potatoes of it.”

There is no tangible way of measuring just how much revenue was saved by each course in terms of manpower and opening quickly enough to not lose consumers – even though, as O’Hare states, the demand has substantially softened in the days following the storm – however it’s easy to understand exactly how being prepared beat the alternative.

At roughly 20 of those affected courses, a pavilion tent rests on the patio, usually remaining there well into November. Rather than waiting, though, each 60-by-100 foot framed structure was removed last week, potentially saving the company $25,000-$30,000 in damage if not for The Plan.

“When the Hurricane Preparedness Plan was given to me, I was kind of shocked,” says Dan Guinle, general manager of 36-hole Royce Brook Golf Club in Hillsborough, N.J. “I’m in New Jersey, what the heck do I need a Hurricane Preparedness Plan for? Well, now we’ve experienced two of them in the last two years.'

“We’ve come through pretty good because of the plan. By the time the storm came, the doors were locked, everyone was inside and we rode it out. Considering the power of the storm that we had coming through here, we got through it pretty good.”

Guinle has spoken with multiple general managers in the area who maintain their courses won’t be open for another week to 10 days, but despite not having any power Royce Brook is already open for business, with a nearly full tee sheet set for this weekend.

It’s all thanks to The Plan, which ensured Guinle and his staff didn't suffer those pangs of helplessness when it came to the facility.

“Everyone who’s come here has a smile on their face,” he says. “They may not have bathed in a few days because they don’t have electricity or running water, but they’re happy to be on the golf course.”

And even happier to overcome that feeling of helplessness.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.