The Pleasures Of A Rain Delay
By Jim McNaney
Most of the time, golf and rain don’t mix well. Grips get wet. Water soaks your clothes, and your bag seems to weigh 20 pounds more. Worst of all, if it gets hard enough (or turns dangerous with lightning) we have to pull it in and head to the clubhouse to dry off.
Sometimes however, a good rain delay is welcome… especially for those of us in the industry. There are the obvious benefits of a healthy rainstorm. During the summer, the grass tends to take a beating and the irrigation systems on every golf course are pushed to the limits. Letting the course take a drink and relax once in a while makes conditions better later in the season. Additionally, when the course is closed due to weather, long overdue maintenance projects like fixing a mower or getting all the carts back up and running get the priority they need.
You also might be surprised to hear that a mid-season rain out is actually welcome relief to the Golf Professionals and their staffs. The golf season in Minnesota is not long in number of days, but the days themselves are extremely long. The workday begins “when you can” (before sunrise) and ends “when you can’t” (after sunset). This schedule continues all season. Days off are a rarity.
A total rain out gives everyone on the golf staff a chance to catch their breath and recharge for the rest of the season. OK… I can hear you now… “But they get the winter off!” Honestly, many assistant professionals don’t. Many end up heading south for the winter and end up working the same long hours. Head Professionals do generally log shorter hours in the off-season, but there is still a great deal of work to do preparing for the next season.
Admittedly, we chose this life, so it is on us, but it still doesn’t make it fun. But there are other benefits of a good rain delay that may not be so obvious. Now that the COVID restrictions are over, rain delays offer a chance for golfers to socialize. A good card game in the clubhouse with buddies, a couple of drinks and a few appetizers, even watching the professional tournament on TV, are all aspects of the golfing life that we all should take the time to enjoy.
In days gone by, business deals, new job opportunities or chances to meet someone new were commonplace at private clubs. Today, more and more rounds take place on public courses. Still, if given the change to just “hang out at the club,” take advantage of it.
One of my favorite memories in the business occurred during a rain delay at a public course in the Tampa Bay area. I was the Resident Professional at Lost Oaks of Innisbrook. Formerly Tarpon Woods, the folks at the resort purchased this public course not only to offer more holes for resort guests, but also to add a bit of customer service to those in the neighborhood that frequented the course.
Many of the players at Lost Oaks were former NHL players and former or current MLB players and coaches. In particular were a number of coaches and front office staff of the New York Yankees. People like Gene Michaels, Billy Connors and Don Zimmer lost their fair share of golf balls on the various water holes.
As a native Chicagoan and diehard Cubs fan, you might wonder why I cared about people from the Yankees. Well, all of them were PAST Cubs employees. In my youth, they were running the Cubs. I was in heaven just being around them although getting to spend much time with them was not really possible.
Then it happened. It was early spring, and we got a torrential rainstorm right around the lunch hour. The forecast was inconclusive if golf would be played in the afternoon, so most players stuck around. Michaels, Connors, Zimmer and others (including my boss, PGA Professional Jay Overton) were gathered around a large table and I was invited to join them. The stories just started flowing and, as baseball guy, I just sat back listening, hanging on every word.
Finally, one of them looked at me and said, “Jim, you’re a Cubs guy and were an infielder growing up, I’ll bet your favorite Cub was Ryne Sandberg?”
“Nope,” I said. “You’ve probably never heard of my favorite Cub. My all-time favorite was Mick Kelleher.”
“Killer?!?” they all laughed, “he’s one of our chief scouts!”
The next thing I knew, I was on the phone with one of my childhood heroes. A memory I will take with me the rest of my days. And it all happened because of a rain delay.
So, the next time the weather drives you back to the clubhouse, take the time to just hang out. You never know what awaits you.