Rebirth History on the Brink of Extinction

By Mercer BaggsApril 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
Golf Chronicles: After KatrinaNEW ORLEANS -- Natural Light beer cans scatter the ground just outside a clubhouse whose roof is covered in blue tarp. Old, ragged campers filled with vagabond contractors litter the parking lot. The hood of a washing machine lies in the middle of a fairway. The smell of trash and urine carries in the wind.
Amidst it all, there on the ground, near the empty, crushed cans; outside the gutted clubhouse; next to a barren cart barn; there lies a card. It reads: How to Get to Heaven Wherever You Are.
Heaven, at the moment, feels far, far away. At the moment, City Park, like much of the outer edges of New Orleans, is in shambles.
Every day we feel like we take a step forward, says Mike Rodrigue. And then we read the paper the next day and its another step back.
Rodrigue is a fourth generation New Orleanian. His father used to bring him to City Park as a child and let him ride on the back of his pull cart. Rodrigue, whose immediate family lost six homes to Hurricane Katrina and now resides under one roof, is the founder of the Fore!Kids Foundation. The foundation raises money for various childrens charities through golf tournaments, many of which were held at City Park.
Its tough, he says, before stopping at length to fight back tears. Its tough to talk about. It affects everybody.
City Park Clubhouse
City Park's clubhouse before Hurricane Katrina and after the flooding.

City Park is the New Orleans equivalent of New Yorks Central Park. Opened in 1854, it spans 1,300 acres, making it one of the oldest and largest urban parks in the country.
And come September, it may be no more. No more picnics. No more boat tours. No more festivals. No more amusement parks. No more weddings. No more tennis. No more golf. No more music. No more beauty. No more history lessons. Just history.
We have enough money to make it to September, says City Park COO Robert Deviney, then a lot of this park will go back to nature.
Wearing a light blue, short-sleeved, collard shirt; jeans and work boots, Deviney, who was born and raised in the Crescent City, pulls into the Bayou Oaks Golf Club on a newly procured tractor, navigating his way around the squatters.
We lost every single piece of equipment, he tells, and then goes on to say that, nearly eight months after Katrina busted the nearby 17th Street Canal and flooded 90 percent of City Park land, they are still without electricity or phone service.
Devineys job duties have increased significantly as his staff as been reduced 25 fold. What once was a stable of 250 employees is now down to 10.
He is now not only the man in charge of restoring his beloved park; hes in charge of picking up range balls.
He does this menial task because he knows that golf, of all things, can help save City Park.
But he first needs to save golf at City Park.
City Park is a self-sustained, non-budgeted state agency, owned by the City of New Orleans. However, it receives no money from the city and gets only $200,000 each year from the State of Louisiana. That 200-grand represents but 1.8 percent of its $10.8 million annual operating budget.
The rest of the money comes from within. And nearly half of that internal income is generated through golf.
Pre-Katrina, there were four 18-hole golf courses at City Park, as well as a two-tiered driving range that accommodated 75 players at a time. Combined, they pulled in $4.5 million a year.
Now, there is overgrown grass and garbage. No flag sticks or tee markers. No players. Just that washing machine hood resting on the Wisner Course.
Before the 29th of last August, before Katrina did $55 million worth of damage, more than 100,000 rounds a year were enjoyed at City Park. And just like at Bethpage State Park in New York, players would beat the sun to the course.
We call them Dawn Busters, says Rodrigue, who adds, This is where everybody in the area learned to play.
He says that because this is the only public place to play in all of New Orleans.
Ben Hogan has played here. So, too, have Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. Everybody who was anybody in professional golf in the 40s, 50s and 60s knew City Park, as it hosted the Greater New Orleans Open Invitational (now the PGA TOURs Zurich Classic) 14 times from 1938-62.
And, as Deviney said, unless there is some significant funding, golf will cease to exist at City Park, which will mean the end of City Park itself.
Were relying right now on donations, and relief from FEMA and our insurance to get facilities back up and running, Deviney says.
They are in dire need of at least a couple of million dollars. They figure, if they should receive the necessary funds, that it will take about two months to get at least one course in playable condition.
Unfortunately, they need it from a community that has nothing to give. That means they are asking for help from others.
This is all part of a bigger picture, Deviney says, this is about us as Americans caring about helping other communities.
(Donations can be made at
Just down the road from City Park, men in Hazmat suits filter through rubbish outside one of hundreds of decimated houses in the neighborhood, none of which are habitable.
Its just amazing, that in one day it was gone, Deviney says. You have to come down and see the magnitude of this devastation. Its not like a tornado ripped through a 10-house pattern in a neighborhood. Nobody was spared. This was every single house in the community.
New Orleans House
Not a house was spared in the City Park area.
Further down the road, a church stands with only half a roof. Its steeple points the wrong side of up.
Heaven, at the moment, seems far, far away.
But out of the worst evil can come the greatest good.
Laissez les bon temps roulez: Let the good times roll. Its long been the local motto in an area known as the Big Easy. Now times are very, very hard, and that motto has forcefully evolved into a new mantra: Recovery, Rebuild, Rebirth.
The process of rebirth is underway at City Park. Certain areas have been re-opened, including the practice range.
From Tuesday-Friday, during the daylight hours of 3-6 p.m., people can hit a $5 bucket of beat-up, yellow balls just like they used. They can temporarily escape the worries of life; place on hold all that bothers them.
People like Jane Rosen, a golf instructor for 15 years at City Park, who made signs that said, Stress Relief, to increase business.
People like Kevin Hude, a doctor, who is wearing his work clothes ' long-sleeve, white button-up shirt; tucked-in tie; slacks; beeper; soft spikes ' while hitting old irons and wooden woods out of a weathered, skinny, gray-and-pink canvas bag.
On this Friday, the bottom tier of City Parks range is almost at capacity. Everyone pinched in the middle is hitting off of mats, while two men on each side opt for the patchy grass.
There is a 20-something white male in shorts, t-shirt and backwards cap. A 30-something black male in a collared shirt and jeans.
There is a Kansas man, who has been working as a contractor in New Orleans for seven months, taking a break. And a young girl named Kat, who is taking lessons from Jane Rosen.
And then there is Louis Stewart. Stewart, a 65-year-old black male, is hitting balls for the first time in over a year. He used to caddie in the old New Orleans Open, working for the likes of Billy Casper and the Herbert brothers. He wears a hat that reads, Just Golf, and says that todays caddies are making grand-theft money compared to what he used to earn.
Its going to get better, he says. It just takes time.
Time, however, is not on City Parks side. September is less than five months away. The uncertainty of recouping FEMA and insurance monies is troublesome.
In A Streetcar Named Desire, a movie set in New Orleans, Blanche DuBois says that she has always depended on the kindness of strangers.
Such is now needed by City Park officials.
As a park that was unfunded before Katrina, this really wiped us out, Deviney says. Any donations on behalf of golfers would enable the people to come back and play City Park.
Just seeing a park like this, adds Rodrigue, one with so much history ' and not a thing has been done to it since August 29th.
New Orleans is rebuilding from the inside out. Those who can make money for the economy are reborn first. City Park lives to support itself, something it can no longer do.
'I hope they don't forget about us,' says Deviney.
There are people in the park this Friday. Men and women tossing Frisbee, jogging, walking their dogs.
People are here; they want their park back, Deviney exclaims. And were going to fight. Were not going to go away.
Normalcy is a big part of whats gone. And people want that back.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related Links:
  • Recovery: Professional Golf Returns to New Orleans
  • Rebuild: The Resurrection of Metairie C.C.
  • Golf Channel Airtimes - Golf Chronicles: After Katrina
  • Getty Images

    Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

    By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

    Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

    The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

    Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

    Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

    Getty Images

    Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

    Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

    Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

    Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

    4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

    4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

    4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

    4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

    4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

    5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

    5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

    5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

    5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

    5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

    6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

    6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

    6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

    6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

    6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

    6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

    7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

    7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

    7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

    7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

    7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

    7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

    8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

    8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

    8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

    8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

    8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

    8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

    9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

    9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

    9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

    9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

    9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

    10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

    10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

    10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

    10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

    10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

    10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

    11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

    Getty Images

    Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

    He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

    “There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

    Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

    “I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

    Getty Images

    Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

    Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

    Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

    “I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

    Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

    “It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

    More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

    “I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”