U.S. Mid-Am Caddie Insider: The Grey Lady of Nantucket
by Sean Melia

I’ve heard you can see the ocean from Sankaty Head Golf Course. Today was not one of those days, unfortunately. Instead, the infamous Grey Lady of Nantucket rolled into Siaconset and made herself quite comfortable.

Fog is a funny beast, there’s no way to tell when it’s coming or when it’s going. Supposedly the sun can help burn it off. When the wind blows, it can push it right on through and clear up the skies. Spend enough time surrounded by fog, and everyone becomes an expert on this fickle meteorological mystic.

The day started early, with a 6:15 a.m. cab ride with LeRoy out to the golf course. Another pain point of visiting Nantucket can be getting around. The shuttle, which is typically excellent, doesn’t run very early in the morning, and by very early I mean it kicks into gear at 10:00 a.m. Bikes are a popular option, but it would have been quite a ride to the other side of the island.

So LeRoy was my ride. A friendly Jamaican who was waiting for me in the lobby. When I told him where I was going he asked me where my clubs were. When I told him I was caddying he said, “That’s a good gig.”

During our 15 minute ride, Leroy asked about the tournament and when I told him the winner gets to go to The Masters he seemed impressed, and then told me about his friend who could hit the ball 250 yards and could certainly compete with the likes of the guys coming from all over the country to this small island.

The fog thickened as we drive to Sankaty Head, and it was very clear as I hopped out of the car and wandered through the clubhouse and out to the putting green that there would be a fog delay.

It started with ten minutes. Then 20. Then 30. Then 35 (five minutes? Really?). Then 40. I hung out on the range, watching guys hit balls into the fog, without a clue of where any of them were landing. Slowly but surely the flags on the range appeared and it was time for some golf.

Well, a little golf.

There are worse places to wait out delays than Sankaty Head
As the group walked to the first green, all with putters in hand, hoping for an opening birdie, the horn blew three times.

Fog delay.

It was a sound we’d hear quite often during our nine hour round.

The group was allowed to finish the hole, as fog isn’t a dangerous situation. It took 45 minutes for the fog to clear enough for us to continue. But it was already 9:00 a.m. and we had endured 85 minutes of delays.

The famous Sankaty Head lighthouse sits prominently over the golf course. It’s thick red stripe appeared and disappeared during the day. But when the whole lighthouse disappeared again as we stood 400 yards away from it on the 7th tee, those three horns blasts echoed through the sky. After 30 minutes of waiting on the tee for the Grey Lady to go away, they called us all in.

The crazy part about all of this was at Miacomet, the other host course about seven miles away, they were free and clear, playing golf unimpeded by the fog. With just one ten minute delay, according to a USGA member.

Fog and FOMO at Sankaty Head.

There are worse places to wait out delays. Sankaty Head is a beautiful club, and considering there wasn’t rain or lighting, people could mill about freely and the doors to the clubhouse were swung open. It also made it frustrating because everything could be easily solved with just a bit of a solid breeze. Golfers ate, talked, wandered, hit putts and then suddenly right at noon we were told that play would resume at 12:20.

We managed to play 10 holes without a delay, until we reached the par 5 17th and had to wait again after another three horn blast. We ended up back in the clubhouse for this delay, too.

Finally, at about 5:00 p.m., the group’s final putt hit the hole, we shook hands, and wondered if any of us had experienced a stranger round of golf.

This is the type of start-and-stop round, watching the guys grind out scores of 70, 71, and 73, that makes me realize how tough tournament golf is when things aren’t perfect. The draw matters, too. As our group finished, guys were starting their round, and to put a cherry on top of the day, the fog horn blew again about 15 minutes after we finished.

It wasn’t an ideal day for Sankaty Head’s first USGA event.

However, I did find the golf course to be really good. While not terribly long for players who are here this week, the wind can play quite a bit of defense when it’s blowing, and once golf balls find the fescue, all bets are off on trying to hold some of the greens. The bunkering off the tees and around the greens frame the holes while penalizing poor shots.

I asked our marker, a member at Sankaty, which side the membership likes more. She said, “The front” without a hint of hesitation. When I asked her why, she said it’s the easier of the two nines. She’s right, the front doesn’t have too much challenge. The greens are a bit more open in the front. While the back has more hints of Tillinghast’s work, with deep bunkers around perched greens.

The running of a golf tournament involves a lot of moving parts, and when something like fog refuses to move, it can add up to a whole new set of issues to manage. It seems likely that the opening two rounds will conclude on Monday considering many in the field won’t finish today or even make it through two or three holes.

Considering the on-and-off nature of the rounds, the score of 66 that Garret Rank shot and the 67 that Andrew Paysee shot at Sankaty have them primed for a relaxing Sunday morning before heading to Miacomet late in the afternoon to start, but probably not finish, their second rounds.

Here’s hoping the Grey Lady picks somewhere else to spend her Sunday.

ABOUT THE U.S. Mid-Amateur

The U.S. Mid-Amateur originated in 1981 for the amateur golfer of at least 25 years of age, the purpose of which to provide a formal national championship for the post-college player. 264 players begin the championship with two rounds of sroke play qualifying held at two courses, after which the low 64 (with a playoff if necessary to get the exact number) advance to single elimination match play.

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