Hurricane Irene was an unwelcome early arrival for Deutsche Bank Championship week in New England, ripping through Massachusetts on Sunday with strong winds and heavy rains. But fortunately for the staff at TPC Boston -- the tournament's host course -- and the thousands of spectators and volunteers expected in Norton, Mass. between Sept. 2-5, overall damage was minimal and the golf will go on as scheduled.
"For the most part, we made it through with flying colors," said Championship director Eric Baldwin. "A couple of the smaller structures got loose, some of the vinyl came off the tops and opened up a bit, but it's nothing we can't fix. The core facilities -- the building and the club -- still do not have power, but the temporary structures are all on generators and we expect power back later today. We put ourselves in a very good position with our pre-storm preparation, and now it's really just a matter of tidying things up after a very windy and stormy day yesterday."
The most extensive damage involved an estimated 50 fallen trees, course superintendent Tom Brodeur said, which left leaves and branches littering the golf course.
"We have a tree company in here taking care of the bigger stuff," Brodeur said, "and for the other stuff it's kind of all hands on deck for the staff. Everybody is pitching in to help out -- some volunteers, some caddies, a couple club employees -- all out here with rakes and barrels sweeping everything up so we can ship it out of here."
And fortunately, Brodeur said, the rainfall that lashed the state for much of Sunday has not caused any significant problems.
"We got a little over two inches of rain -- a little more than a normal storm, but nothing too bad," he said. "We have a little bunker work to do, pushing up some sand and stuff like that. But there are no issues with the playing surfaces -- the tee boxes and greens -- so we're doing pretty well."
Baldwin said TPC Boston's preparation for Irene began once meteorologists pinpointed the hurricane in the Bahamas and started to map its progress up the East Coast.
"Once we knew the hurricane was coming, we started to batten down the hatches," he said. "We ratcheted down all the main structures and then doubled and in some cases tripled their anchoring. We didn't end up installing some of the smaller tents. We reinforced fencing and took the mesh screening off the TV towers and the bleachers. All in all, we took down probably 90 percent of our signage and banners."
For the course itself, Brodeur said he and his staff focused primarily on protecting against high winds.
"We removed everything that was loose that could blow around," he said, "and we tied down tents and those sorts of things. We were really trying to avoid things blowing around and hitting a green or a tee box. As I said to the staff before the storm came, I've seen one piece of plywood do a ton of damage to a golf course. So we were just trying to get all the loose stuff off the course or tied down."
Once everything was secure, Baldwin, Brodeur and the staff retired to their homes to wait out the storm and hope for the best. When they walked in this morning, they were relieved to find an intact championship golf course.
"While there are quite a few trees down, there is nothing core that is going to interrupt the functioning or the playability of the golf course," Baldwin said. "Our vendors, partners, staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that when we open up tomorrow morning, we'll be ready. And for the most part, tomorrow's fans will see very little impact to their experience, and certainly by the weekend we'll be rocking and rolling full speed ahead."