The storms caused widespread and substantial damage to the golf course, its facilities and the surrounding neighborhood, forcing event organizers to seek another venue for an important state high school tournament scheduled for the site next week.
Part of the clubhouse roof was missing, the facility’s maintenance building was described as “a total loss” and at least seven greens on the 27-hole championship course sustained some damage. Callen estimated trees down around the golf course in the thousands. Outside the gates, houses in the area were destroyed and trees snapped in half.
“It’s awful,” Callan said. “Right now, we’re just checking on our staff to make sure everybody’s OK. There wasn’t anybody here (when the storm hit), but the neighborhood’s pretty bad. I’m more concerned about the people in the neighborhood.
“You can never be prepared for this.”
John Cannon, president of SunBelt Golf, the parent company of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, said it would be four or five days before officials could have “even an intelligent estimate” of the damage. While there also was damage at the Oxmoor Valley and Ross Bridge facilities in Birmingham, Cannon said Silver Lakes took “99 percent of the damage” to the Trail facilities impacted by the storms.
There was no projection on when or in what manner the course would reopen for play, although it likely would be on the order of weeks instead of days.
“Driving around the whole property, there are some areas that are pretty tough,” Callen said. “A lot of the trees are over cartpaths, not necessarily in the middle of the fairways. We could play in three weeks, I don’t know. We really don’t have a plan yet.
“We know we have to start somewhere, we don’t know where. We’re formulating a plan and we’re going to get this golf course open. How long it’s going to take, I don’t know. We could be playing golf in three weeks. Fortunately, the clubhouse is not that bad, but the maintenance department is and that’s what we’re looking at.”
The cleanup will impact a number of events scheduled for Silver Lakes in the coming weeks, and Callen said course officials were in the process of reaching out to those organizers. It is not expected to impact the course’s participating in the Sunny King Charity Classic later this summer.
On Monday, however, the course was scheduled to hold the boys South 2 Class 1A-2A and 3A sub-state tournament. Local organizers of that event are looking to move it to Thursday at Cider Ridge Golf Club in Oxford, pending Alabama High School Athletic Association approval. Cider Ridge will be holding boys and girls Class 6A sub-state tournaments earlier in the week.
“There’s just no way we can do it (at Silver Lakes),” said Pleasant Valley coach Rex McAlister, the local site director. “It’s going to be worked out.”
He sounded as confident as Silver Lakes officials did about the return of its course.
“We’ll roll up our sleeves and get the place back on its feet,” Callen said.
“When something like this happens, it’s a disaster,” said Cannon, “but you have to turn it into an opportunity to improve the property. We’re going to commit to excellence regardless ... and be just as proud of it — if not more — going forward.”
The course also is the practice home for the Jacksonville State golf program. The JSU men qualified for the NCAA Tournament by winning its conference championship earlier this week. With Silver Lakes out of commission, the Gamecocks have made arrangements with Anniston Country Club and FarmLinks to prepare for the May 19-21 event.
“This is a place I’m very fond of and a place that’s kind of our home for our program,” JSU golf coach James Hobbs said. “When it gets hurt, it hurts. It was hard to see when I saw it this morning.”
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.