Joe O’Toole has played golf at Yankee Run Golf Course since he was a boy. When he heard the course was hit by the June 16 tornado that ripped through Brookfield, he had to see the damage for himself.
“What a mess,” he said as he drove around it on a golf cart June 17.
You don’t see much damage from Warren Sharon Road or the clubhouse, but once you cross the bridge to the first hole, “This is where it starts, right here.” he said.
Trying to quantify the damage is difficult, said Garrett McMullin of the course-owning McMullin family. There are probably more than 300 trees that were damaged: uprooted, sheared, twisted apart, blown apart, topped out and toppled.
“One-hundred-year-old trees,” McMullin said. Being as the course opened in 1931, those trees dated from when the land was the McMullin and Jones farms.
“We’re never gonna get them back,” McMullin said.
The course put out the call for volunteers and dozens showed up, some as early as 7 a.m., when course employees started work.
They cut and sawed trees, stacked logs, made brush piles and burned brush that they could get to the burn pile.
Tom Gardner came out at about 1 p.m.
“This is my favorite course,” the Vienna man said. “I came down when I saw the damage around here.”
Gardner has a side landscaping business and brought his own chainsaw and other equipment.
“Some of the guys out here just busted their rear ends,” Gardner said.
High school students were among the volunteers.
“Brookfield and everywhere around here really pulled together,” McMullin said. “Words can’t express how grateful I am. How do you even say, ‘Thank you,’ for the work the people have done?”
Pizza in the clubhouse was a start.
McMullin said the objective is to get the playing areas cleared so the course can be opened as soon as possible. The rain this golf season has already hurt business, and he estimated it could be a week before the golf carts contain clubs and not hand and power tools.
The only green with significant damage is number 15, but there are plenty of fairways filled with debris, and the cart path was not free of obstructions.
O’Toole said the course layout is bound to be different once the course is reopened. On hole three, there is an area he calls purgatory.
“If you get in there, there’s no way out,” because of the trees, he said.
A lot of those trees now litter the ground.
“I don’t know what they’ll have left when they clean it out,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole expects the experience of playing at Yankee Run Golf Course also will be different. For one thing, Route 82, at the back of the course, is visible from areas of the course where it never has been before. A little bit of the shut-out-the-rest-of-the-world atmosphere has been lost.
“This is horrifying for me, having played here all my life,” OToole said.