Dances With Hurricane Frances


ORLANDO, Fla. -- While the rest of Orange County was hoarding batteries, I was stocking up on par putts.
It felt a little irresponsible, Ill admit. But with Hurricane Frances bearing down on the Bahamas and the authorities emptying out south Florida, I felt like a few holes of golf. We have everything in the house were likely to need, so why not play a few? Things are due to get bad Friday, and theres no telling when well be able to play again.
Somewhere around the eighth hole, the director of golf pulled up in his cart and told me the club would be closed Friday. I expected as much. All morning I had been riding by oaks whose roots seem perilously close to the surface of the sandy soil, which is now pretty damp from our usual summer afternoon storms. Surely some of them, weakened by Hurricane Charley a few weeks ago, will succumb to Frances sustained winds, which are supposed to last longer.
Our club did pretty well holding up against Charley. There are only a few piles of brush and chain-sawed tree trunks piled up between holes. We hope to weather Frances as well, but the last few holes flood in a bad rainas I said, who knows how long well be closed?
Of course, its only golf. Its good to be faithful to ones club or favorite course, but you can take my club, cars, house, the whole shebang if I can hang onto my family. But one does get attached to a place, and as long as the basics are safe and sound, I want to see my golf club do well too.
Playing golf is a great way to hold pre-storm apprehension at bay. But I suppose visions of roof tiles blown into orbit eventually worked their way back into my consciousness, because I started pumping drives out of bounds on the ninth tee. (Cue the Dangerfield voice: You wanna talk natural disasters; you should see my golf game. I tell ya, I dont get no respect.)
So that was enough golf, for now. But the anticipation, and everyone looking warily to the southeast, got me thinking about golf and natural disasters.
Frances, gate-crashing broad that she is, surely takes things beyond the realm of Nae wind, nae rain, nae golf. I actually had a match scheduled in the company tournament Saturday. Last I looked, winds were supposed to have intensified to 33 mph by then. Whats that, a six-club breeze? Just tee it down and swing easy.
The storms central Florida has been dealing with are a perfect metaphor for how much golf is beyond our control. If my roof flies off Sunday, theres not much I can do to prevent it. Its lifes version of the goofy bounce that puts you in a bunker. No point worrying. Just stay alive and unhurt.
All business involves risk, and now is not a happy time to own a golf course in Florida. The rounds played numbers for August arent ready yet, but that month, September, and October are sure to be down as a result of the two storms. Reserve some hope for our colleagues on the ownership and superintendent side.
I remember playing at a beautiful course called Kitansett in Marion, Mass., right next to Buzzards Bay. Behind one green, where the turf ends and the cattails begin, is a stick on which the high water marks of various storms are noted. Suffice to say casual water was forehead-high on some occasions, and the nearest point of relief was in Providence.
So much for grinding over a 10-footer. As we like to say around the newsroom when a story breaks that transcends all things for awhile, Were not curing cancer here. Its golf, and golf TV, and golf Internet. Important, but not as important as our familys lives.
So Im sure youll pardon us if we have to run a little more taped programming than wed like to this weekend. Well still do some of our live shows, but it will be a skeleton crew, some of them working from other cities where we can be sure theyll have power. I imagine well be back to full strength pretty soon.
If you need me, Ill be reading by flashlight on the sofa, leaning against my wife, son, and dog.
Itll be a golf book, of course.
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