Golf in Alabama emerges from day of fury

A man pauses to look at the damage from a tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Ala., near the University of Alabama, on Wednesday.

A man pauses to look at the damage from a tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Ala., near the University of Alabama, on Wednesday.

For all the tornadic devastation loosed on Alabama last week, golf courses seem to have been spared the worst of the impact.

Of the 11 facilities operated under the umbrella of the statewide Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, only Silver Lakes Golf Course was knocked out of commission when tornadoes raked the Southeast on April 27. The 27-hole facility, in Gadsden, 75 miles northeast of Birmingham, was closed through at least last weekend, with unspecified damage.

Amid the horrific destruction – at least 342 dead and thousands injured – the golf business emerged surprisingly intact.

Shoal Creek, site of this week’s Regions Tradition, the Champions Tour’s first major of the season, had about 20 downed trees but nothing to interrupt the event, club manager Jon Davis said.

“We got some rain, thunder, lightning and tornado warnings in the area,” club manager Jon Davis said, “but the course is in good shape. The tents that are out there, none of them blew down. We were lucky.”

Jonathan Romeo, the tournament director at last week’s Avnet LPGA Classic in Mobile, had to rush back to Birmingham when he got word that three trees had toppled onto his house. There were no injuries to his family, he said.

Two men’s college conference championships – the Ohio Valley Conference, won by Jacksonville State, in Dickson, Tenn., and the Sunbelt, won by Denver, in Muscle Shoals, Ala. – were shortened to 36 holes because of the weather.

The Country Club of Tuscaloosa, North River Yacht Club, Woodland Forest, Indian Hills Country Club and The Links at Tuscaloosa Golf Course closed temporarily as a precaution.

Two days later, business at Oxmoor Valley Golf Course, a 54-hole hole facility in Birmingham, was brisk: 502 rounds. “It’s package season,” said a pro shop attendant who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Lots of out-of-towners want to play their discounted golf.”

Staff reports contributed

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