The not so fairways: Wild weather silences golf tournament
When the golfers on the PGA Tour convened to play the third round of the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland last Saturday, they heard a sound they were unaccustomed to hearing in the Tiger Woods era: silence. The course, it turned out, was deemed too unsafe for spectators because of the violent storm that ripped through the Mid-Atlantic Friday night. Because of falling tree limbs and damaged power lines, the PGA Tour closed the event to everyone except the golfers and members of the media for the entire round. The golfers joked about how they drained long putts and looked up to acknowledge a crowd that … wasn’t there.
When the PGA Tour did reopen the tournament to spectators on Sunday, I was there in the 98-degree heat to see the startling effects of the 80-mph winds that tore through the course: decades-old trees had crashed onto fairways, fences had broken in half, and cars had been smashed by wayward limbs. It was little wonder the Tour took the almost unheard-of step of excluding spectators the day before.
We know that increasingly extreme weather is part of our changing climate. On the list of negative outcomes from violent storms, you would think that any effect on sporting events would be toward the bottom. But as I saw people trampling around the course and buying concessions and merchandise on Sunday, it occurred to me not only how unsafe the course must have been the previous day, but also how much money was lost. The Tour and the many businesses in and around the golf course — and their employees – sat almost idle on Saturday, costing them what was surely millions of dollars. People who plunked down the $25 to see Tiger and the rest of the field on Saturday were forced to go on Sunday, if they could make it.
The cost to our safety and local economy at this major event was a not-so-subtle reminder of how dangerous storms can be, especially for summer events outside. While some things stay the same (Tiger pulled out a victory), our changing climate and the increasing likelihood of severe storms should have any crowd concerned not only for its well-being, but also for its wallets.
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