August 3, 2007
Whoever said “White men can’t jump” must have never been on a golf course in a sudden thunderstorm.
During the July 29 afternoon downpour that roared through the Cape Region, the creator of that taunt could have seen a whole lot of jumping going on, by golfers whose normal vertical leaps can’t go higher than a few inches.
The long-lasting electrical storm also provided a significant reminder about the dangers of staying out on the course when these thunderboomers roar in.
Violet Simmons is the popular bar manager at Shawnee Country Club. When the storm approached, she was running the club’s beverage cart on the back nine. As the number and intensity of the lightning strikes increased, the club manager called her to return, and Simmons began driving the cart toward safety.
“I was coming around the curve by the 17th tee, and I heard what sounded like a really loud gunshot right over me. I looked up and saw bark from a tree bursting into the air, like fireworks,” she said.
“Some of the bigger pieces hit the cart, and some of the smaller pieces just fell on me from the air. That lightning was close enough for a big scare. I must have stood in shock for about five seconds, and then I put the pedal to the metal and rushed in from there.”
“All I could think of was ‘get to the clubhouse,’” Simmons said. “I’ve been here a dozen years and nothing like this had ever happened to me before.”
Simmons knew her mistake. “I stuck it out longer than I should have. I didn’t see any lightning, just heard a lot of thunder.”
When I saw her shortly afterward, Simmons was just leaving the cart by the open space near the pro shop. She went into the club, and started helping out in the suddenly crowded bar and dining area. “Lots of members kept saying, ‘Violet, sit down. Have a drink, and put it on my tab.’ Everybody was so nice about it, that it probably kept me from crying,” she said.
The tree that Simmons rode past when the lightning bolt struck it is just to the right of the red tees on the 17th hole. It’s part of a small grove, but it was a bit taller than the others. Right now, it’s also a lot blacker, and probably not long for this world. One damaged trunk section looks like a long blanket of charcoal.
That’s because the tree actually caught fire from the strike. A significant portion of the upper trunk glowed red with embers, even through the strong rains that came immediately after the lightning strikes.
Rich Phillips, the club president and a nearby resident, eventually called Carlisle Volunteer Fire Company in Milford. “We were trying to put the fire out with our own equipment, but our stuff couldn’t reach that high. The volunteers came out with their grass fire truck and took care of it for us,” Phillips said.
Simmons wasn’t the only one to stay too long on the course. I was playing the ninth hole with John Eustis, and we had just put our tee shots within 20 feet of the flag. At that point, we heard a sharp clap. “That’s it for me,” he said, as he smartly turned and walked toward the parking lot.
Not so smartly, I decided to fix our ball marks, retrieve his ball, and try for the birdie.
I parred the hole, and was walking toward his van when that lightning bolt hit that tree. I was bathed in light, and immediately surrounded by way more thunder than I ever wanted to hear that close to me.
That too-casual approach to a thunderstorm is not something I plan on repeating.
Oakley ties for 48th in Senior British Open
The Rookery’s Director of Golf must like playing the links.
Pete Oakley finished in a tie for 48th place in this year’s edition of the Senior British Open, earning just over $9,200 for his efforts. His one-over par final round was matched or bettered by only 18 other golfers among the 76 who made the cut at Muirfield.