BELLEAIR, FLA | Long before Columbus sailed the blue oceans, the Seminoles originally settled in what is now Tampa because the water temperature in the bay pushed hurricanes north from the Gulf of Mexico. or south. Hundreds of years later, Tampa has still been spared the devastation suffered in places like Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
But this does not mean that the region is sheltered from wind and rain. When Hurricane Ian hit hard last month, residents in this part of the state flooded the streets, power outages and lots of debris to clear, though they were spared the storm’s fury .
Compared to the struggles their southern neighbors are still enduring, the 4.68 inches of rain and 70 mph wind gusts from Hurricane Nicole that blew through Belleair and Clearwater last Thursday seem mild.
After delaying the first round of the Pelican Women’s Championship and sending players to their hotel rooms to watch movies and roll putts on the mat, LPGA staff sent out a notice at 5:30 p.m. which, with hard work and hopefully play could resume at 6:55 a.m. on Friday. For the next 12 hours, the extraordinary team at the Pelican Golf Club, with the help of the Almighty, put this golf course in a state that no one never imagined possible.
“The course is in incredible shape for what we just went through yesterday,” said Gerina Mendoza after a 2-under first round. “It’s in good shape, period, but the greens are absolutely perfect, and it was playing really, really long off the tee. You get zero throws, so it wasn’t necessarily like we could just throw darts. You still have to hit the 7 or 6 irons. But it dried really well. I don’t think I saw any standing water at all, just around maybe a few drains.
A base of sand helps. Nearly 5 inches of water a few miles inland would have endangered the game. At this proximity to the gulf, the rain falls directly to the water table. Still, the lack of debris was remarkable. Along the way, the lawns were strewn with palm fronds and tree branches. At the Pelican Golf Club, even the pine straw around the shrubs didn’t seem out of place.
“I don’t play a lot in Florida, but, I mean, I love the course,” Carlota Ciganda said after opening with a 64-under-64 round. “I think he’s in incredible shape. , one of the best courses I’ve ever played. The fairways, greens roll really well, and especially after the storm yesterday and all the rain we’ve had. I think it’s a great setup.You can pretty much hit it anywhere off the tee and then its a second shot golf course.The greens are quite hilly so you have to be in the right spot.
Lexi Thompson, who lost the Pelican Women’s Championship in the playoffs last year and opened this year’s tournament with a 64 of her own, agreed with Ciganda’s assessment. “The hospitality we receive here at Pelican is top notch and the course is always in top condition,” said Thompson. “I mean, even with 5 inches of rain, it was in great shape for us. Sure, we (play lift, cleanup and place), but they did everything they could you can definitely tell.
Mendoza added: “You get the feel (of new conditions) pretty quickly, putting greens, chipping, hitting range balls. I would say the beach here is drier than the golf course.
And, 24 hours after a hurricane, everything is miraculously fine.