Storm topples notable tree at Colonial, alters tournament look

Colonial loses iconic tree in storm

The iconic pecan tree near the scoreboard at the 18th hole at Colonial Country Club fell in last night's storm.
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The iconic pecan tree near the scoreboard at the 18th hole at Colonial Country Club fell in last night's storm.

Workers at the hand-operated scoreboard overlooking the 18th green at Colonial Country Club will no longer be shaded by one of two massive pecan trees that flank the board during next year’s PGA Tour stop in Fort Worth.

One of the trees, estimated to be at least 130 years old by club officials, toppled during Sunday’s storms, and maintenance workers spent Monday removing the debris.

The large pecan was the highest-profile contributor to a scene in which “thousands of limbs” were removed from the course during Monday’s clean-up efforts, said Colonial general manager Mike Rushing.

Multiple trees were impacted by broken limbs during a storm that produced 4 inches of rain and sustained high winds. Another similar-sized pecan near the 18th tee also toppled.

But golf fans at next year’s Dean & DeLuca Invitational will be most taken aback by the glaring omission to the left of the upsized scoreboard, based on the vantage point of fans sitting in grandstands ringing the final green.

“For us, it’s sad to see. Old pecans like that are hard to replace,” said Rushing, who noted that the tree was at least 130 years old and has been in photos of the club since it was founded in 1936. In the earliest pictures on record, Rushing said, “It was already a mature tree then.”

At this point, club officials are unsure what steps, if any, will be taken in efforts to replace missing trees before next year’s Colonial tournament is held May 21-27, 2018.

“We’ve lost trees in the past. We just have to let things settle and see how the whole (membership) feels,” Rushing said. “I think it’s fair to say the club has learned its lessons to not act hastily and just arbitrarily start planting trees.”

Michael Tothe, Colonial tournament director, said the two missing pecan trees at No. 18 will alter the feel of the course’s closing hole for competitors. The missing tree near the tee will allow more leeway on drives, but the bigger difference will come from the vacancy beside the scoreboard. In addition to shading the hand-operated scoreboard, its limbs impacted approach shots from golfers in the left rough or the left side of the fairway, depending on pin location.

“That tree kind of framed the 18th hole pretty good,” Tothe said.

Now, it’s gone. Rushing said Scott Ebers, Colonial’s golf course superintendent, was on the property with members of the maintenance staff when the storm rolled through around 6 p.m. Sunday. While doing aeration work on the greens, the crew began tracking the storm on radar.

“They thought it was going to miss to the south of us,” Rushing said. “But in the last few minutes, it started to divert and drift right over our property. It didn’t miss.”

In some ways, Colonial officials were fortunate there was not more damage around the 18th green. The tree on the other side of the scoreboard was not affected. And the fallen tree fell toward the green, away from the giant scoreboard. Had the tree fallen in another direction, Rushing said, “It could have taken down the scoreboard. And that’s a custom-sized board.”

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch

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