Post Hurricane Course Conditions Stuns Players |  LPGA

Post Hurricane Course Conditions Stuns Players | LPGA

BELLEAIR, FLA | Long before Columbus sailed the oceans blue, the Seminoles originally settled in what is now Tampa because the water temperature in the bay nudged Gulf of Mexico hurricanes either north or south. Hundreds of years later, Tampa has still been spared the ravages suffered in places like Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.

But that doesn’t mean the area is immune from wind and rain. When Hurricane Ian hit hard last month, folks in this part of the state had flooded streets, power outages and lots of debris to remove, even if they were spared the worst of the storm’s fury.

Compared with the struggles their neighbors to the south are still enduring, the 4.68 inches of rain and 70 mph wind gusts from Hurricane Nicole that blew through Belleair and Clearwater this past Thursday seem mild.

After delaying the opening round of the Pelican Women’s Championship and sending players to their hotel rooms to watch movies and roll putts down on the carpet, LPGA staff sent a notice at 5:30 pm that, with a lot of work and a little luck, play could resume on Friday at 6:55 am For the 12 hours after that, the extraordinary crew at Pelican Golf Club, along with some help from the Almighty, got this golf course in the kind of condition no one would have ever dreamed possible.

“The course is in amazing shape for what we just went through yesterday,” Gerina Mendoza said after a 2-under by opening round. “It’s in good shape, period, but the greens are absolutely perfect, and it was just playing really, really long off the tee. You get zero roll, so that it wasn’t necessarily like we could just throw darts. You’re still having to hit 7- or 6-irons. But it dried out really, really well. I don’t think I saw standing water at all, just around maybe some drains.”

A sand base helps. Almost 5 inches of water a few miles inland would have put play in jeopardy. This close to the gulf, rain sinks straight down to the water-table line. Still, the lack of debris was remarkable. On the drive in, lawns were strewn with palm fronds and tree limbs. At Pelican Golf Club, not even the pine straw around the shrubbery looked out of place.

“I don’t play that much in Florida, but, I mean, I love the course,” Carlota Ciganda said after opening with a 6-under round of 64. “I think it’s in unbelievable shape, one of the best courses I ‘ve ever played. The fairways, the greens are rolling really nice, and especially after the storm yesterday and all the rain that we had. I think it’s a great setup. You can pretty much hit it everywhere off the tee, and then it’s a second-shot golf course. The greens are pretty undulating, so you have to be in the right spot.”

Lexi Thompson, who lost the Pelican Women’s Championship in a playoff last year and opened this year’s tournament with a 64 of her own, agreed with Ciganda’s assessment. “The hospitality that we receive here at Pelican is top notch and the course is always in great shape,” Thompson said. “I mean, even with 5 inches of rain it was in beautiful shape for us. Of course we’re (playing lift, clean, and place), but they did everything that they could; you can definitely tell.”

Mendoza added: “You get the feel of (the new conditions) pretty quickly, putting on the greens, chipping, hitting the range balls. I would say the range out here is drier than the golf course.”

And, 24 hours after a hurricane, all of it is miraculously good.

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