No player has tamed the course at Quicksilver Golf Club the way Mother Nature did 10 days ago.

A brief but violent storm caused maxi-damage to the course in north-central Washington County. The tempest sheared and uprooted trees, destroyed the driving range building, transformed sand traps into mud traps, and terrorized a few unfortunates who were stranded in the great outdoors.

Those players escaped uninjured, but their sensibilities did not. It was a terrifying 20 minutes during the late afternoon of June 27.

The storm, according to the National Weather Service, was a microburst – defined by as an intense “localized downburst.” This one packed 60- to 70-mph winds and heavy rain, and it was certainly localized. General manager Carl Pia said the storm left Quicksilver without power for two days, but didn’t disrupt electricity usage in nearby McDonald.

Carnage at the club, however, was formidable.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Pia, GM of the Robinson Township club for 17 years. “We had severe flooding in 2004 (courtesy of Hurricane Ivan), but we’ve never had damage like this.”

On Tuesday, he led a golf-cart tour of the havoc created by a storm five days earlier. And the casualties were many.

Although he hasn’t tabulated the financial loss, Pia had a lengthy list of inventory items. He said about 200 trees were damaged, some with the top two-thirds splintered, and some were uprooted. These were mature, study trees.

Quicksilver has 75 bunkers and, according to the general manager, the majority of sand was blown out of many of them. “Where did the sand go?” he asked. “You don’t see it anywhere.”

The driving range building, near the back of the club property and a few hundred yards from the Southern Beltway project, was shattered and blown partly into a club parking lot. Flying debris, Pia added, damaged several cars.

Yet, despite the destruction, no injuries were reported and Quicksilver – incredibly – had to shut down its golf operations for only one day. The golfing gods did not spare the fairways, greens, bunkers and tees, but diligent workers made the course playable within a day and a half.

Pia worked with the owners of Quicksilver, Chuck and Eddie Long of New Castle, to prepare the course for play. They hired a tree service and the Longs called in work crews from two other courses they own to pick up debris and either remove it or relocate it to spaces that normally do not come into play.

“The crews and the tree service did an amazing job,” Pia said. “The fairways were debris-filled and the crews worked day and night.”

That Friday was the first day Pia had to close Quicksilver for in-season play. The course reopened Saturday morning, June 29, resulting in a smaller financial loss.

Quicksilver, under normal circumstances, is a rolling, picturesque layout, a well-manicured test for even accomplished golfers. The Senior PGA Tour had an annual stop there in the mid-1990s.

The course, post-microburst, remains attractive. There is a lot of mangled wood lying about, however, heaped between holes, to the sides of tees, in spaces that will not likely disrupt play.

“It looks like a war zone down there,” Pia said, pointing to a space that – well – looks like a war zone. But that isn’t the only place where branches and stumps abound.

Most of the course is playable, although the white tees – the longer tees – on the 13th hole are out of service. And Pia advises players who land shots in traps to stay out, and consider that to be a ground-under-repair, free-lift situation for your next shot.

This microburst was a freakish set of circumstances, to be sure. Elevation could have been factor – Pia stopped his cart at one point and gestured toward a hillside 100 yards away, saying that is rumored to be the highest point in the county. But geography probably had little or nothing to do with the storm.

The only certainty is that Mother Nature has tamed Quicksilver.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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