As is usually the case out on an elite-level golf course, walking down the fairways and along the cart paths at Valhalla Golf Course makes it easy to forget what’s going on in the outside world. It’s that way on a normal day, and it’s that way today, 24 hours after the remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through Louisville leaving much of the city without power.
Two miles up the road, cars are waiting an hour to pump gas. But inside the gates here, where all the wall clocks read “Rolex,” it’s hard to tell there was much of a storm at all.
Maybe it’s a case of the rich getting richer. Or staying rich.
The large corporate tents and temporary structures housing gift shops and media headquarters were left largely unscathed, amazingly, and the course remains in remarkable shape. Boo Weakly was on the first tee when I got to the course around 11. J.B. Holmes is on the course now.
They’re sharing it with an army of workers on tractors, mowers, and others with leafblowers and rakes.
It could be any day after an average thunderstorm. Course superintendent Mark Wilson provided the money quote, when asked if there were any significant damage:
“Nothing they’ll be able to see when the lights shine on us,” he answered.
A tree that had stretched a bit over the No. 15 fairway was lying across it this morning, but already had been removed by the time I passed it. The tree actually had provided an important sight line for golfers teeing off on No. 15, but that little piece of orientation is now gone; a stump is all that’s left.
Of more concern is a television tower falling on the No. 12 green. I took a golf ball down there a few minutes ago, rolled it over some of the patched areas. As it stands right now, the seams where the green has been patched are definite obstacles to overcome on that green. (Click on the photo at left to enlarge it, and see more at the end of this blog entry.)
There’s nothing on the green that I would consider a gash. But you also have to consider that on these putting surfaces, even a twig in the way is considered a significant obstruction and needs to be whisked out of the way. Maybe over the course of a few days, the seams in these replacements will smooth out, but if the tournament were today, players would steer as clear of the rear of No. 12 as they would a sand trap. That shouldn’t be too big a problem. There’s no way any pin placements will leave much chance for the damaged areas of the green to come into play. But even with the best golfers, sometimes you wind up in places you’d rather not be.
The damaged areas are to the back of the green on the right side. You can get kind of a feel for them from the photos here and at the end of this blog, though they were taken with only a camera phone.
I’d still classify the damage as minor. But if even one of these areas comes into play in what turns out to be a Ryder Cup match, it could become a major topic of conversation, and Hurricane Ike might have written himself into Ryder Cup lore, on one side or the other.
Still, it’s strange to be writing about a three foot scrape on a piece of grass given everything else that has been going on in town, even on my own street. I heard some hand-wringing this morning about flags that had been blown down along Shelbyville road, but the truth is that when a tree has fallen onto your house, or through your power lines, it’s hard to work up much worry about such cosmetic changes.
It is a huge break for the city that this weather didn’t mar an international event that will garner worldwide attention.
It just struck me this morning that, at least for me, walking into a place like Valhalla or courses like it is like walking into a different world.
And that’s never been more the case than it was today.