2005: Katrina’s effect widespread

By Bradley S. Klein

With Hurricane Katrina about to descend on Gulf Hills Golf Club in Ocean Springs, Miss., president and general manager Arnold Verhoeven emptied the cart barn and lined up the fleet of 90 golf carts on high ground. The storm surge of 26 feet spared the carts, but not much else. When the storm subsided, scores of homes surrounding the property along Back Bay were devastated.

The course was littered with boats, furniture and refrigerators. More grisly were the three bodies Verhoeven found on club grounds.

Hurricane Katrina left many Gulf State golf courses in shambles, leaving superintendents and club officials with a daunting recovery effort. Recovery efforts were hampered

not only by impassable roads and a shortage of fuel and fresh water, but also by a sense that given the vast destruction and the number of victims, there were more important matters to resolve.

In New Orleans, aerial images of the flooding show that the city-owned 54-hole Bayou Oaks Golf Course, located just east of the broken 17th Street Canal levee, is under water.

A spokesperson for KemperSports Management, the firm that operates the property, said the 80-member staff had been urged to evacuate before Katrina hit and that efforts were under way to ascertain their whereabouts.

Just on the west side of the same canal, the private Metairie Country Club suffered flooding but the greens “appear to have been spared,” according to architect Ron Forse, who last year completed a restoration of the Seth Raynor-designed layout. Although he was unable to reach anyone at the club, Forse conducted a Web search and based his comments upon the real-time aerial imagery he downloaded.

Across the Mississippi River, on

the south side of town, the TPC of Louisiana in Avondale, site of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April, sustained heavy tree damage but no structural damage to buildings. According to Jon Scott, vice president of agronomy for the PGA Tour, flooding was confined to lower lying areas of the course. “Pumps are without power,” said Scott, “so at this point we have no idea how long it will be to remove the water.”

As for the fate of next year’s Tour stop in New Orleans, Scott said “obviously, it is far too early to speculate on the tournament at

this point.”

Even where course damage is

not extensive, golf course recovery and tournament schedules will be hindered by destruction to surrounding roads, the use of hotel rooms for sheltering evacuees and the importance of public efforts being focused on recovery.

That’s the main issue facing the PGA Tour’s Southern Farm Bureau Classic Oct. 6-9 at Annandale Golf Course in Madison, Miss. With Hurricane Katrina taking a path east of Jackson, Miss., direct damage to the golf course was not severe. Tournament director Ed McEnroe said that a meeting with the tournament board was slated for Sept. 7.

“If we are able to hold the event,” he said, “we want to be sure we can do something with the relief effort and give back to the community.”

In Alabama, only two of the state’s 10 Robert Trent Jones Trail sites were affected directly by the hurricane. Repairs have begun at

the Magnolia Grove complex in heavily hit Mobile along the coast and the Cambrian Ridge property

in Greenville, in the south central part of the state.

Magnolia Grove is scheduled to play host to the LPGA Tournament of Champions, Nov. 10-13.

LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said that while his office was in close contact with tournament organizer Raycom Sports, “any definitive assessments or conclusions about

the Tournament of Champions . . . probably won’t be made for another two weeks.”

– Michael A. Boslet contributed

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