Just last week, Hurricane Ian made its way through the state of Florida. After making landfall as a Category 4 storm near Cayo Costa, Florida, the hurricane continued through Central Florida, heading towards the home of the Epson Tour Championship, Daytona Beach. Much of Southwest Florida was devastated, and the rest of the state saw damage from excessive rain and wind.
Floridians experienced a range of losses from power to their homes and lives. Regardless of the severity, many spent the last week recovering, repairing, and regaining what was lost. On top of personally recovering, Superintendent TJ West and the grounds crew at LPGA International had to restore a golf course, making sure it was in the best condition possible for the Epson Tour to hold its championship on schedule.
Once Hurricane Ian made its way out of Florida, the crew was on site assessing the damage. Thankfully for the tour, the extent of destruction was not going to delay or reroute the season finale. Even more so, the Epson Tour was lucky to have a grounds crew and community dedicated to getting the course in shape as fast as possible.
“The fact that they've been going through this, this is their home, and they have their own stuff to worry about, yet they're still here for us is amazing and super selfless,” said Epson Tour member, Lindsey McCurdy. “We're so appreciative of that. I mean, they could just be worrying about what they have going on at home, and the fact that they're still super welcoming to us is incredible.”
In addition to the course staff at LPGA International, the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University’s Men’s Lacrosse and Women’s Golf teams showed up to support the Epson Tour. The teams spread out along the course, helping pick up debris and getting the course back to normal.
“If we didn't know there was a hurricane, I don't think we would've noticed,” said Linnea Ström. “I think the course is really good. Greens are rolling great, better than what they did when I came here on Tuesday. I'm just very happy that we were able to come here and play and didn't have to push it up or move it to a different state.”
The outstanding effort, dedication and hospitality from everyone involved did not go unnoticed by the players and tour staff. Some Epson Tour veterans, who have played LPGA International before, even say that this is the best shape they’ve played the course in – especially after hot Florida summers.
“In the end, golf is just a part of our jobs,” said Prima Thammaraks. “It's important to us, but to see that the people are still very welcoming to us is just very special. I just feel appreciative of all the hard working grounds staff at LPGA International who put themselves out there and helped us compete and complete our season there.”
The season-ending event is what the women on tour look forward to all year. Playing on the prestigious course wraps up a season of hard work, dedication and perseverance – something that is being shown both on and off the course, by players and staff, this week.
“We are so grateful to everyone who played a part in making this week possible,” said Carley Cox. “This event holds a special place in my heart because of the amazing staff, tournament committee, and volunteers who are always so welcoming and hospitable. A huge thank you to the grounds crew who have worked diligently to get the course in such great shape despite the damage from Hurricane Ian.”