Back to NOLA: Metairie and the Man

By Mercer BaggsMay 25, 2011, 9:00 pm

NEW ORLEANS – When Golf Channel visited New Orleans seven months after Hurricane Katrina struck, there was an overriding, three-part theme that the region had adopted: Recovery, Rebuild, Rebirth.

We used that mantra to sculpt three stories, one on Recovery, the communal benefits of professional golf returning to New Orleans; one on Rebuilding, resurrecting Metairie Country Club; and one on Rebirth, the effort to revive City Park.

Sandwiched between Recovery and Rebirth was one motif with two very important narratives.

The rebuilding of Metairie Country Club wasn’t just about the golf property in the affluent neighborhood, but the man who went to great lengths – those both obvious at the time and those not fully revealed until years later – to save his club.

“Hurricane Katrina probably affected me more than I realized at the time,” former Metairie head professional Greg Core said from his home on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans.

The storm hit Aug. 29, 2005. After evacuating to his wife’s hometown of Jackson, Miss., he returned 10 days after Katrina struck. He used a breathing mask and a canoe to row out to the club, over parts of the course that were in a mucky burial for weeks.

“It was bad,” Core said when we talked to him in March 2006. “I cried a lot … I didn’t think we would ever be able to come back.”

With the help of greens superintendent Andy Alexander and friend Mike Drury of Delta States Turf, Inc., who loaned the pair some equipment since all of theirs was lost, Core set out to begin the rebuilding process. It took weeks of 15-hour work days, but on Dec. 1, 2005, the club was reopened for business. It wasn’t until January 2009 that the club was fully optimized.

Today, Metairie Country Club is thriving. David Marchand is the director of golf. He was an assistant pro there from 1995-97, left to ply his trade as a head pro, and returned in July 2007. Even when he was away, he was never far from Metairie and saw the devastation first hand.

“It looked like an image of Chernobyl,” Marchand said. “It was bizarre. You didn’t hear a bird, didn’t see a squirrel. All that was green was dead.”

Added current general manager Ken Hamrick, who once was a 15-year-old dishwasher at Metairie, “It looked like someone dropped a bomb of Round-Up.

“For 21 years driving in and around the area and then coming back four weeks after Katrina, it was numbing, impossible to describe.”

The people of Metairie shared the attitude of many in post-Katrina New Orleans – they envisioned a chance to make things better. The golf course had previously been renovated in 2003, but not everyone was satisfied with the modernization.

“This gave us a chance to redo the course and go back to the original Seth Raynor design,” Marchand said of the course, which was first opened in 1922.

The total project was $19 million. Insurance proceeds covered $11 million and members came up with the difference. Construction began in July 2007.

In March of that year, Core left for Colorado Springs, Colo., to take a job as the director of golf at Pine Creek Golf Club.

“My wife, my ex-wife, wanted to get away, put the hurricane behind us,” Core said.

Martha, however, wasn’t keen on Colorado, according to Greg.

“The day before we went to close on our house, I had seven lessons that day. First, it started raining like you can’t imagine. Then it started hailing like you can’t imagine. Then it started to snow. This was in May. She didn’t want to close,” Core said.

“That was the only day she was ever in Colorado.”

Greg returned to New Orleans in July 2007, around the same time the renovation project began at Metairie. He got a job with Ormond Country Club, but was forced to evacuate the area again when Hurricane Gustav threaten the Gulf Coast in August 2008.

“I got into a car wreck and was laid up,” he said. “They couldn’t afford to keep me. Two hurricanes got me.”

After being let go in September, Core decided to get the necessary licenses needed to work for Mass Mutual Financial Group. That job ended in July 2010. The dissolution of his marriage was finalized Feb. 17, 2011.

“Going through divorce is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Core said. “I was working so much, I just didn’t realize … I had so much focus on rebuilding the country club that I didn’t pay attention to everything else.

“Now, I’m teaching kids the game, trying to get back into the golf business. It’s tough out there. The golf economy got hit really hard and never really recovered.”

Metairie Country Club did.

When the club re-opened in late 2005, a double-wide trailer was used as the golf shop/storage facility. A portable tent with air conditioning pumped in served as the clubhouse.

Today’s clubhouse is grandiose. It includes multiple rooms for meetings and parties, gorgeous dark-wood floors, pristine locker rooms and even a barber shop, which existed pre-Katrina and has been run by Nick Randizzo for decades.

There's also a sports complex which features clay tennis courts, an exercise facility, a child-friendly pool with zero entry and an Olympic-sized lap pool.

For all the updates and additions, the club still has a classic, old-time feel. Black-and-white photos of the original course layout decorate the walls. Hamrick spent one day going through some of the old pictures that were not damaged and saw one of former President Gerald Ford playing the course.

“He was here, on the course, when he got the call that he would be president, that Nixon was resigning,” Hamrick said.

The course is in stellar shape, thanks in large part to Alexander, who remained the greens superintendent, and membership is on the rise. There were 1242 members before Katrina, according to Hamrick. That number dropped to 836 around early 2007 and currently stands at 964.

“Members who haven’t been to the club since Katrina are still members today out of loyalty,” Hamrick said.

Added Marchand, “This is an extension of family, a great atmosphere. It’s rare in this business that you find membership who not only cares so deeply about their club but about its employees as well.”

Core still has a fondness for Metairie Country Club. You can hear it in his voice when he says, 'Oh yeah, I've been back there on a number of occasions. It's in great shape. They are doing a fantastic job.'

Yet there seems to be a tinge of remorse in his tone, perhaps a wondering of what life might have been like had he never left in the first place, had there never been a Katrina. Core turns 50 in July. He's unemployed, save for the lessons he gives to juniors.

Five years ago, Core and then wife Martha, who was newly pregnant, talked about the pangs of the recent past and their desire for a more pleasant future. Near the end of that day, Martha offered up something keen: “If God intends for something to happen, it’s going to happen – no matter how prepared you are,” she said. “It’s just how you handle the aftermath.”

In that, Greg Core has no regrets.

“I was the club pro. It was my job,” he said. “It’s the only option I had and I’d do the same thing again.”

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

Getty Images

Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."