I recently went out for a solitary nine on my home course. At the beginning of the round, skies were clear and wind was negligible. It was lovely out. I knew there was a threat of a thunderstorm west of where I was, toward the foothills, but I didn’t think much of it. Where I live we don’t regularly get raucous thunderstorms but when they do happen they are spectacular.
I set out on my peaceful round – enjoying the solitude and the game of golf.
Just as I teed off on hole five, a 147 yard par three from the red tee box, it began to sprinkle. I snickered as I reached into my bag to pull out a covering because – my rain shield wasn’t there. I had taken it out to dry it from having gotten wet a few days prior. Today, I thought I was safe in shorts and collared shirt sleeves.
Well, the sprinkles turned to full on rain as I finished the hole with a bogey or par or maybe a double – I really can’t remember. I rolled my cart up the path to the sixth tee box and surveyed the scene. The twosome in front of me was hitting onto the green and I could see that they had already donned their pullovers and opened their umbrellas. But they were still playing.
The full on rain was then becoming a heavy downpour with hail. I was starting to get wet – and so were my clubs so I pushed my cart under a tree and took cover close by. I didn’t even have my bag cover because I had also removed it to dry. I was SO unprepared. No umbrella either.
I heard distant thunder but saw no lightning so I fully expected this to pass over. There was a wonderfully sheltered spot on the cart path of the fifth hole that was still bone dry so it was a good spot to wait things out.
The heavy downpour with hail then became sheets of water coming down on all sides. My bone dry spot on the cart path started to gather water and then I saw the first lightning bolt in the distant sky. Thunderclaps were growing louder and more violent. It was looking like a storm that was not going to pass in a few minutes
I stood there several more minutes, frozen with awe and indecision.
As I continued standing under the dense branch cover over the cart path contemplating what to do I could have remembered that a ladies club friend of mine lives over to the side of the fifth green and a quick sprint sans bag would have gotten me to safety (I later learned she was about to come out and rescue me herself). There is also a bathroom between the fourth green and the fifth tee, but it was a ways away. I knew that standing under this dense grove of trees was growing ever more dangerous.
Just about then I heard the putter of the marshal cart, a rickety old thing that somehow keeps running even though at any moment, it sounds like it will die. It has a very distinctive putt putt putt. (I know because I’ve driven it throughout the whole course looking for my oft-lost hybrid head cover). Anyway, around the corner came the marshal cart with good-natured Jim at the wheel.
Jim is my favorite marshal, even if he does seem to follow me around the course with an uncanny knack for showing up just when I’m hitting out of a plugged lie against the wall of a sand trap, out of extreme rough or other trouble, or when I’m chipping back on after hitting over the green. He watches intently.
But Jim is a super nice guy and I was never so glad to see him.
“You want a ride back?” he asked, chuckling.
“I’m still hoping this will pass,” I answered, knowing as I said it that there was no way this thing was going to pass without unleashing its full fury.
After some hemming and hawing I gave in, strapped my old two-wheel bagboy to the cart and hopped aboard, fastening the canvas flap as fast as my fingers would allow. By this time the rain was sheeting through even the densest of branches.
Water was pooling all around. As we drove back to the clubhouse I noticed greens were already submerged giving the appearance of little ponds and low spots on the course had become running brooks. This had all happened in a matter of minutes!
Once in the parking lot, I unhooked my bag, threw it in the trunk and got inside my car as fast as humanly possible after thanking and bidding Jim goodbye as he rushed off to rescue the two guys who were in front of me – also holed up under a tree.
I made it home all right and was surprised to observe that though I live only a few miles from the course, the storm had not passed over and would miss my house entirely. My street was dry.
The next day when I showed up for my daily nine, I learned that two big, old fir trees not fifteen feet from the red tee box on the fifth hole, the last hole I played, had been struck by lightning and keeled over. It had already been cut up and they were tending to the area around it. The event even made the local news!
I have no doubt that this happened minutes after Jim drove me out of there. And that was the last hole I played, the last hole I teed off from. Wow!