Golf

Remember 1949: Rain has been far worse at Colonial

Course workers were busy pumping water from the pond next to the ninth hole green that had overflowed during overnight rains. The water conditions delayed the start of the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on Sunday
Course workers were busy pumping water from the pond next to the ninth hole green that had overflowed during overnight rains. The water conditions delayed the start of the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on Sunday Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Make no mistake, North Texas’ volatile spring rainy season has left its mark on the 2015 edition of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

But it has been much worse.

Only once in the previous 68 tournaments -- in 1986 -- has the Colonial been shortened to 54 holes because of heavy rain.

And, of course, Colonial’s fourth tournament was canceled altogether in the aftermath of the city’s worst flood, in 1949, remembered by most not alive at the time by the iconic photo of the Montgomery Ward’s building on West Seventh, where water had climbed well above its first and second floors.

A day after raging flood waters from the Trinity’s Clear Fork invaded the city center of that year, the layout that would become known as Hogan’s Alley stood under the weight of 10 feet of water. Of the 18 holes designed John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell, only the 15th green was visible.

The most serious damage was to the ninth green, where water currents cut gulleys in the putting surface, according to Star-Telegram news reports of that day. An equipment shed, which among its items included a motor scooter and tools, was moved 20 feet.

Only trees kept it from being swept into the river.

Colonial’s course superintendent, Bob Alexander, and his family were rescued by boat when flood waters began to climb to the upper levels of the family’s two-story house.

Nonetheless, city and club officials planned to go ahead with the tournament, held June 1-5 of that year.

Six days before the start of the event, club officials called it off, but not because the course was unplayable even after a second flood washed ashore Colonial four days later.

The natural disaster claimed the lives of 10 and left thousands displaced.

It was, simply put, no time for golf tournament.

“I’m confident that we could get it ready in time,” said Marvin Leonard, founder of the club. “In fact, I feel certain that our members will be playing on Sunday. Unless we get more rain.

“We’re canceling the tournament because the city has been struck by tragedy. Most of our members are engaged in relief work – Red Cross, RFC and other things – and we don’t want to take them away from their jobs. People just don’t have time for golf now that thousands are homeless and the city is battling a second flood.”

So Clayton Heafner never got a chance to defend his title in 1948. Heafner topped six strokes over Ben Hogan, who won the Colonial National Invitation’s first two championships.

The total purse for the tournament that year was $15,000. Tickets to the tournament cost $2.50 on Thursday and Friday and $3 for a daily ticket to the weekend rounds. A tournament pass cost $15.

In addition to the cost in terms of human life, damages from the flood of ’49 exceeded $11 million or almost $110 million in today’s dollars. City officials asked the water district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take the necessary steps to improve the Trinity’s levee system.

In addition to Montgomery Ward, water covered all of the Fort Worth school district’s Farrington Field. Only the upper reaches of its stands on the east and west sides are visible in pictures.

City and relief worked nonstop to get the water out of the city streets. An electric pump motor shipped in from Indianapolis and “a battered old steam pump” were pumping water out of the city at a rate of 33.5 million gallons a day by nightfall four days after the flood, according to news accounts.

Well wishes and financial donations from around Texas came pouring in.

Alice Stokes of Brownwod sent what she could -- $1.

“I only wish I could give more, but as I’m an ex-GI’s wife who’s attending school it’s needless to mention that out budget is very limited, but please accept this $1,” Stokes wrote with her contribution, as described by a news account appearing in the Star-Telegram. “I know that Fort Worth will come through this terrible situation with flying colors.”

Said W.G. Vollmer, president of the Texas and Pacific Railway in Dallas who sent Amon Carter a $12,000 check for those needing assistance: “We are glad to know that Fort Worth keeps a stiff upper lip.”

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