Mother Nature certainly deserves her bad rap in Wisconsin. The worst winter in decades that brought multiple polar vortexes to the Dairy State extended its wrath well into the spring. From there, the spring answered with a perpetual string of overcast days logged with rain, wind and “in-between temperatures,” warm enough to put the parkas away but chilly enough to think twice about it.
This is not good for golf. It’s not good for players; it’s not good for golf courses or instructors or the fairways, etc. It’s especially not good for those golf shop assistants, like myself, surrounded by the beauty of the game, only to be cooped up in the shop watching the outlines of puddles grow larger and larger on the nearest green.
That’s what most of this dreary spring has been like. It’s the frustrating hand we’ve been dealt. For much of the spring, I was irked by what Mother Nature was offering, unsatisfied with my last few months of golf in Wisconsin.
My last two shifts behind the pro shop desk changed those feelings, though. Sometimes rotten weather can be a blessing for the game of golf.
It was the evening of May 11 when a beautiful, sunny day was interrupted by a late afternoon thunderstorm. With tee times stretching toward 5 pm, it would be a busy evening for the course. That thunderstorm had different intentions, however.
For 30 minutes lightening, thunder and rain rocked the course. Torrential downpour made the course momentarily swamp like. Many foursomes cancelled. Those who had just begun their rounds were forced off the fairways and needed rain checks. All in all, it was a gloomy end to Mother’s Day.
However, after those 30 minutes, the sun quickly came back in the early evening. It seemed too little, too late for Sunday golf. Instead, the weather opened things up for a single player who, having just left the office, would have never fit on the tee sheet. Those foursomes would have kept him from playing, or if there were a sliver of time, he would have been hitting one shot every 10 minutes. Bad weather made him the only golfer that evening and he cruised around 18 holes in under two hours. Perfect.
The next morning I was back in the pro shop, and this thunderstorm was worse. It lasted longer and its remnants continued to keep the course soaked throughout the day. The worst (or best) part was that it arrived unexpectedly.
Again, golfers retreated from the course and the driving range. One of those golfers was Andy North, a two-time U.S. Open champion and designer of the course where I work. Mr. North came into the pro shop for a bag of range balls, like he had done many times, and didn’t say much, like he is known for.
When he comes to the course, he tends to walk alone. A simple “hi” is usually all you’ll get. The thunderstorm presented an opportunity for more, a talking point, conversation starter and temporary golf deterrent.
The normally reserved Mr. North moseyed around the golf shop for half an hour, chatting with me about career aspirations, Wisconsin basketball, professional golf, life on campus, etc. Without the thunderstorm, he would have more than likely continued to be the “normally reserved Mr. North.” Instead, the thunderstorm gave me a conversation I’ll never forget, thanks to the same Mother Nature that frustrated my golf game all April long.
The truth is, sometimes Mother Nature just doesn’t want you to golf, or maybe she just wants you to wait a few hours. And sometimes, as much as we would hate to admit it, she just might be spot-on.