Good night, Irene: Eastern Seaboard cleans up

No. 16 at Plainfield Country Club, site of The Barclays.

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It’s a good thing the fourth round of The Barclays, the PGA Tour’s playoff opener, was cancelled. If not, eventual winner Dustin Johnson would have needed a boat to get to the 16th green at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J., on what normally is a water-less hole.

On the morning after Hurricane Irene blew through metropolitan New York on its path up the Eastern Seaboard, superintendent Travis Pauley surveyed the 4-foot-deep pond Monday on what had been fairway and considered himself lucky that the storm damage wasn’t greater. 

Hosting a Tour event -- let alone a FedEx Cup playoff tournament -- is tumultuous enough. Add 9 inches of rain before the weekend and top it with another 9-inch soaker from Irene on Sunday during what would have been the final round and Pauley had the pumps working full throttle. 

“We did OK,” he said. “Lost five trees on the course perimeter and have lots of water where it doesn’t drain out. So we’ve rounded up some electric pumps, and we’re doing the best we can.”

The scene was repeated across the East Coast as the golf industry cleaned up from a storm that killed at least 25 across eight states, with early damage estimates approaching $10 billion.

Myrtle Beach, S.C., one of the East Coast’s top golf destinations, escaped Irene’s wrath and immediately launched a news release informing golfers that the Grand Strand was open for business. Farther north, however, the damage from flooding was still being assessed.

On Long Island, just east of where Irene’s eye blew through New York early Sunday, Lido Beach (N.Y.) Golf Club withstood 5 inches of rain and wind gusts topping 60 mph. The municipal links course, though it sits on the Atlantic shore, was spared any saltwater incursion. Flooding came from two inland ponds that spilled enough to close the course Monday, though officials said the couse should be open later in the week.

At the far eastern end of Long Island, Montauk (N.Y.) Downs State Park Golf Course endured only 1 inch of rain but winds of 75 mph-plus. It was enough, according to superintendent Charles Reidlinger, to down small trees but not enough to do major damage to greens, fairways and tees. Still, the course was closed Monday, as were all other courses in the New York State Park System -- including the five layouts at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale – as a precaution for damage assessment.   

In making preparations for Hurricane Irene, there was much concern throughout the New York area about storm surges. For the most part, major flooding was avoided, though tidal surges on Long Island Sound contributed to saltwater flooding two holes at Fishers Island Club and considerably more fairways at the Country Club of Fairfield in Connecticut.

Inland, the story throughout the East was one of minor damage – enough to close courses temporarily. Ocean City Golf Course in Berlin, Md., shut down for the weekend when the entire surrounding Maryland resort community was evacuated. Nine inches of rain and hurricane-force winds left the 36-hole facility mildly bruised and with some flooding, but both courses were up and running by Monday morning. 

About 120 miles to the west, the University of Maryland Golf Course in College Park actually was in worse shape than many on the coast because of tree damage that left cart paths obstructed and the course closed.

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