Craig Nome and his 16-year-old son, Mason, had the car packed and ready. Craig had been checking the roads between the family’s home in Bunker Hill Village, about 10 minutes west of downtown Houston, and Austin, Texas. There was one road open.
“We were going to make a run to Austin,” said Craig, who from there would fly with his son to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where over the Labor Day weekend Mason was set to compete in the Junior Players Championship, one of the AJGA’s top events.
But before they could leave, the road turned blue on the traffic map. There was no other safe way to Austin.
“So we finally made a call that we just couldn’t get him there in a timely fashion,” Craig said. “We just couldn’t make it work, so we decided to give the opportunity to someone else.”
Mason, who is verbally committed to Texas for the Class of 2019, had finished fourth in his Junior Players debut last year at Sawgrass Country Club. And with the event returning to the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass after a year away from the PGA Tour’s flagship course, he was excited.
“I felt like my game was in a good spot going into the tournament,” Nome said. “I feel like that course and that sort of golf plays to my advantage. … You have to be on your A-game.”
And Nome was. But when a disaster of Hurricane Harvey’s intensity hits the fourth-largest city in the U.S., golf – and just about everything else – obviously takes a backseat.
The Houston area was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall for the first time Aug. 25 near Rockport, Texas, as a Category 4 storm. The Houston area was impacted mostly by severe flooding, especially in areas along Buffalo Bayou, which runs through downtown Houston and east toward Galveston Bay. Officials have said at least 40 people perished in the storm, and that count is expected to rise. Early estimates were that 7,000 houses were destroyed, with tens of thousands more heavily damaged.
The Nomes lives less than 3 miles from the bayou, but they were among the lucky Hustonians who didn’t have flood waters breach their homes.
“Near downtown there’s an overpass that says ‘Be Someone’ and that sign is way up; it seems like water could never flow that high,” Mason said during the flooding. “And now the water is almost up to the sign.”
The Nomes rode out the storm at home, and Mason kept his game sharp in the family’s Full Swing Golf simulator. Craig kept busy looking for a way to Florida, but flights in Houston were grounded until late Wednesday afternoon and roads were flooded all around Houston as Harvey stalled over the area for days.
“We didn’t totally expect to get trapped,” Craig said. “And with the hurricane getting trapped, we got trapped in a sense.”
Four other Houston junior golfers – Cole Hammer, Travis Vick, Ben Wong and William Moll – will play in the Junior Players. All four drove to Dallas the day before the storm hit. The Nomes would’ve done that, too, but Mason’s mom, Shannon, had a stroke in 2010 and needs a special car. Craig, understandably, didn’t want to leave her and the family’s dog in a hotel in Dallas with no transportation while he and Mason were in Florida.
But considering what could’ve happened, the Nomes aren’t concerned about missing a golf tournament.
“It’s been an interesting few days,” Craig said, “but we’re amazingly blessed and fortunate and grateful, relative to the struggles others are going through.”
Mason’s friend and fellow junior golfer, Turner Hosch, who lives in Dallas, sent out a tweet Sunday night that sparked the AJGA to donate money to Harvey relief efforts. For every birdie made at the Junior Players, the AJGA will donate $10 to help those affected by Harvey.
Said Mason: “Hopefully they make a lot of birdies.”
(Note: This story appeared in the Sept. 4, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)