PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Faced with a flooded course in which some fairways were more suited for fishing than playing golf, the LPGA Tour found a unique solution Thursday. It shortened the Ocean Club to 12 holes for at least the first round of its inaugural Bahamas Classic.
The only other option might have been to cancel the tournament.
A storm the locals haven’t seen in 20 years poured a foot of rain on Paradise Island earlier in the week. A lake that separates the ninth and 18th holes turned into a lagoon, setting off a chain reaction of drainage problems. Even with nine pumps siphoning water back into the ocean, progress was slow.
“Every time I come up with a decision, a third of my tour doesn’t like it. But I can’t be afraid of that,” LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan said. “I don’t expect people to love the outcome, but it’s better than the alternative. … Everybody who plays over the next few days is going to play the same thing. It’s OK not to like it.”
Whan listened to a spirited discussion about the Bahamas Classic counting as official.
The LPGA Tour policy says a tournament has to be 36 holes to be official, and this likely will be every bit of that — if not more. The tournament will start Friday over 12 holes, and the number of holes could be expanded each day depending on how fast the water drains. The hope was for an 18-hole finish on Sunday.
“I feel sorry for Pure Silk. They’ve done a hell of a job with the tournament,” Juli Inkster said. Ohio-based Pure Silk signed on with the Bahamas Tourism Ministry as title sponsors of the $1.3 million event, the first time the LPGA Tour has come to the Bahamas.
“I think we should play,” Inkster said. “We should play as many as we can and crown a winner. I just think we’re here, and everyone has the same opportunity to play well and win. It’s a rare thing that’s happened once since I’ve been out here. And I’ve been out here a long time.”
Inkster and Laura Davies were at the 1988 Kemper Open in Hawaii, which not only was shortened to 54 holes because of torrential rain, but only 16 holes were used for the first round because two holes were under water.
Going even further back in history — way back — the British Open first was played at Prestwick and contested on the 12-hour course over three rounds until the course eventually expanded to 18 holes. So the winner of the Bahamas Classic will have something in common with Old Tom Morris.
Stacy Lewis won a tournament in Arkansas where it rained so hard it took three days to get in 18 holes. It did not count as official.
“It’s strange to play 12 holes a day, but we’re all going to play the same holes,” she said. “When you get out there and play, you do the best you can.”
How flooded is the course? Lewis has quite the fish tale.
She was on the course Wednesday afternoon with Brittany Lincicome, not with golf clubs but fishing rods. Wading along in the ninth fairway, Lewis said she hooked a tarpon she estimated at about 4 feet. The tarpon spun high out of the water and broke the line. Yes, the big one got away.
“I’ve hooked some big ones,” Lewis said. “But I’ve never seen a fish that big on a golf course.”
Starting times have been adjusted. Instead of a two-tee start for the 144-player field, everyone will start on No. 10 and then weave their way around the Tom Weiskopf design in the following order: 6-7-4-5-11-12-13-14-2-3 before finishing on No. 8.
The pars and yardages on some holes might have to change, though one principle of golf remains — low score wins.
Suzann Pettersen was among those peppering Whan with questions on why it would be official, especially with Solheim Cup and ranking points available, along with the money list. She stood by her opinion, but was ready and willing to play.
“We’re doing the best with what we have,” Pettersen said. “You’ve just got to fill out whatever box is there on the scorecard.”
Davies came to the Ocean Club on Thursday, which was sunny and balmy for much of the day, just to get some practice. She had been at the Atlantis Resort for so much of the week, and she stopped going to casinos “because I don’t win anymore.”
Sizing up the situation at the course, Davies said the LPGA Tour “made the best of a bad lot.”
“You’ve got all these people working so hard to get the course ready,” she said. “It’s different, don’t get me wrong. But I agree with them. Let’s play. … It takes a lot away if it’s not official. And it’s the same for everybody.”
It also put new meaning in the LPGA Tour’s slogan: “See why it’s different out here.”