South Florida is home to hundreds of players across multiple pro tours. With good weather, no state income tax and a bevy of courses and colleagues to grab a game with, it’s a no-brainer for many.
Over the weekend, though, there was little golf being played in the Sunshine State. At one point, Hurricane Irma engulfed pretty much the entire peninsula. Florida is more than 650 kilometres from south to north and all that was visible on my weather app was the giant green, yellow and red blob spinning and spewing destruction.
The Jupiter area and south to Miami were spared a direct hit but damage was everywhere. It included countless trees uprooted, downed power lines, blown-out windows and roofs that were ripped off, and flood waters that rose to at least four feet in the heart of downtown Miami.
Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Michelle Wie, to name a few, were among the players who got out of town before the storm. Others, like Greg Norman, rode it out.
“All good,” texted Justin Thomas before adding, “I think.”
The Keys and areas of the Caribbean got hit much worse. In Florida, the west coast just south of Tampa took the brunt.
One golf pro from Naples’ Tiburon Golf Club fled to just outside Jacksonville, only to see the storm shift back east. He didn’t know whether he and his brother, a chef and novice golfer, would still have a place to live when they got back.
“Fence and tree damage to my house and parents’ house but nothing otherwise,” said tour player George McNeill, who lives just outside Fort Myers. “Others weren’t so lucky. It’s not real good [south] of us. If it was a Category 5, we’d all be in a different place.”
The storm tracked north through Orlando, causing more havoc there, and eventually to Jacksonville, too, where it knocked out power and sent the massive St John’s River overflowing into parts of the city’s downtown. At TPC Sawgrass to the south, the Stadium Course’s island 17th green was partially submerged. In preparation for the storm, the US PGA Tour, which is headquartered down the street, sent many of its critical assets north.
On Monday night, hundreds of utilities trucks were streaming southbound on Interstate-95, trying to restore power for the millions who lost it. Others worked to clear debris from streets, or begin various levels of repairs.
In the aftermath, “all good” was mostly the message from many in the golf community, though. They know others have it a lot worse.