By John Kim, Coordinating Producer
HERSHEY, Pa. -- Matt Ganshaw, the PGA Head Professional at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Silver Lakes in Glencoe, Ala., had a memorable first appearance at his first PGA Professional National Championship.
Ganshaw impressively beat three quarters of the field to make the cut though his final two rounds weren't as strong as he had hoped.
"It was a great experience, definitely something to build on," Ganshaw said after his final round. "It was great; we had a good time."
Ganshaw opened the championship shooting 70-73 before closing with rounds of 76-78.
But Ganshaw's year will be defined or remembered for his performance on the course. At least, not his playing performance.
On April 27, a series of tornados swept through central and northern Alabama, one of them, an EF4, hit his Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail-Silver Lakes course, downing 50,000 trees, destroying the maintenance facility and damaging the clubhouse. It was part of the same storm system that famously hit Tuscaloosa, Ala., destroyed thousands of homes and killed hundreds of people.
"Driving into the neighborhood you would never have thought anything was wrong," he said about his return to the course the morning after the tornado came through. "But you keep going, you come to the first stop sign and go up the hill, and all of a sudden you see the damage of the trees cut off and what not. It just takes your breath away.
"I've never seen anything like that; it was like a war zone, like a bomb had gone off. You couldn't even drive down the road to the golf course; you had to walk it. It was unbelievable."
Ganshaw says it's the determination and resilience of the Sunbelt Management Co. that has made the arduous task manageable.
"The next week we had tree crews in there, starting to clean up," he said. "Really, what we did was take it one hole at a time, picking up debris and going from there.
"We are still closed. We plan on reopening the middle part of September, or late September. We have 36 holes, we have a nine-hole short course, and we had planned on re-grassing those greens on the short course, but now make it into a four-year project, nine holes each year. But with the extensive damage and whatnot, we decided to go ahead and re-grass all 36 holes."
Ganshaw's initial appearance in the PGA Professional National Championship was a memorable and exciting experience. But for him, the perspective gained in the last two months has been even more valuable.
"To see that damage and all the lives that were changed forever that day, there were hundreds of people that were killed, a lot of people that lost their homes and everything else, it definitely puts things in perspective," Ganshaw noted. "You have a bad day on the golf course and it's a lot easier to get over it for me."