This is not your father’s Veterans Golf Course.
It’s not even last Tuesday’s course.
The back nine at the Springfield municipal golf course in Springfield suffered extensive tree damage during Wednesday afternoon’s tornado.
“Tree-wise, the back nine was basically destroyed,” said Kevin Kennedy, general manager of Veterans and Franconia golf courses. “It was just unbelievable. I have never seen 1/100th of this kind of damage before.”
Hundreds of trees were either uprooted or snapped in half as the tornado shredded that part of the Sixteen Acres/East Forest Park course.
“The rest of the golf course, the greens, the fairways made out OK . . . not a lot of turf damage, just by luck,” Kennedy said. “There will be nothing standing out there.”
Areas particularly impacted were along side the 14th hole (on Plumtree Road) and between the 14th and 16th fairways. The tornado path came east over the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th (green) and 18th (tee) holes. Parts of the first and second holes also sustained tree damage.
Approximately a half dozen groups were playing the course before the tornado roared through and another 50 or 60 waiting for the start of league play were held back.
“I can’t say enough about (assistant pro) Maressa Gonzalez and the job she did in getting people off the course safely,” Kennedy said. “I think everyone was very lucky.”
Gonzalez blew the horn three times, the first approximately 45 minutes before the storm hit.
“I saw our Doppler system change the tornado watch to a warning and you just have to take the proper steps and pull everyone off,” Gonzalez said. “You treat it like you would with any daily, summer thunderstorm. You can’t risk your own (staff) to get out there, so you trust that everyone follows (procedure).
“It’s crazy, you just don’t think it’s going to happen here. I am still a little shaky when I think about it.”
The golf course has remained closed, although Kennedy was hopeful of opening the front nine by Wednesday. The back nine, on the west side of South Branch Parkway, is a different story.
“I am guessing four to six weeks, a solid month, before we open the back,” Kennedy said. “We will have heavy machinery out there, so we will need to plan how to minimize any damage from that.”
Help for Kennedy, superintendent Andy Gay and his crew came quickly and often.
“We got a tremendous amount of response from area golf courses,” Kennedy said. “They have come from all over, with equipment and help. We can’t thank them enough.”
Kennedy said updates/conditions are available by calling the pro shop at Franconia, at (413) 734-9334.