Rain keeps annual A-team busy at this year’s Colonial

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial typically marks the return of sandals and flip-flops from their winter hibernation onto the feet of the Metroplex.

As rain flooded many parts of the pathways that lined the course at Colonial Country Club, rain boots became the footwear fashion of choice for those trudging through trenches of mud.

“It’s like Woodstock out there,” Colonial tournament director Michael Tothe said.

The spectator situation would have been much more dire had it not been for the Colonial’s A-team.

Before the tournament, Tothe hires around 20 college students, mostly sophomores to seniors from TCU, to be jack-of-all-trades, moving chairs and tents and removing branches from pathways.

With all the rain, the red-shirted A-team spent most of their time driving flat-bed golf carts around the course, dropping bag after bag of mulch on muddy areas, which provided a short-term fix for cleaner crowd movement.

A job that typically begins at 5 a.m. for a normal tournament began at 4 a.m. Sunday.

The A-team worked alongside course superintendent Scott Ebers and his staff of around 30 to remove standing water off the course.

Ebers has a staff of around 15 people and brings in other course superintendents and assistants from around the Fort Worth area to aid in tournament preparation.

Both groups will return to the course later this week to help restore it to its normal state.

It’s a process that typically takes a week and a half, but Tothe said it could last as long as three weeks this year.

“We couldn’t have done it without those guys. They are amazing,” Tothe said.

Officer saluted

Fort Worth police officer Mike Barber is a familiar face to many at Colonial, but after 30 years on the force and 29 tournaments, he will be retiring in January.

For the past 28 years, Barber has been posted at the downstairs entry to the clubhouse near the golf pro shop and has the responsibility of admitting only the fans who have the proper credentials.

“It’s a great spot, at least it has been for me,” Barber said.

Barber recalled a special moment in 2011.

“Of all the people I have come across out here, the ones that impressed me the most were back in 2011 when the board of directors here at Colonial invited the six Congressional Medal of Honor recipients here to be our guest,” Barber said.

“They were out on the course at each of the holes and called out the names of the players as they teed off. I got to meet all six of them and two of them gave me their medal of honor coins. I would count that as my top memory here at Colonial since I had the opportunity to meet a true hero. Not a celebrity, but a hero.”

Weekley’s win

Boo Weekley has been named as the winner of the Crowne Plaza brand’s Always On Charity Challenge.

The Challenge was a social media contest on Facebook and Twitter for fans that centered around nine golfers playing in this year’s Invitational.

As part of the Challenge, the Crowne Plaza brand will donate $90,000 — $10,000 for each year of Crowne Plaza’s title sponsorship — to the local Fort Worth Birdies for Charities program in his name.

Weekley, who finished tied for 33rd in the tournament Sunday, receives $10,000 toward his charitable foundation, Boo Weekley Charity.

Inside the ropes

Longtime Colonial members John Wright and George Haratsis spent Sunday’s final round inside the ropes with Masters champion Jordan Spieth, defending Colonial champion Adam Scott and Jerry Kelly.

They were “honorary observers.”

“Having the chance to walk 18 holes with these great champions is the thrill of a lifetime,” Wright said. “It certainly ranks as my favorite sports memory.”

The 6.8-mile trek around the soggy course began with the three introducing themselves to Wright and Haratsis next to the famed Colonial Wall of Champions on the first tee box.

“We both love golf and follow the PGA Tour, but the chance to be with this group was like winning the lottery,” Haratsis said. “I was fortunate enough to be asked by Frost Bank to participate and it is a day that I’ll never forget.”