By Carol Stiffler

Straight-line winds blew into the Newberry area on Saturday afternoon, running along the M-28 corridor and wreaking havoc on Foley Hill and the M-123 intersection where the Newberry Country Club sits.

With an eye on the weather, club manager Linda sounded the fog horn to summon all golfers off the course before the rain hit.

When it hit, it delivered quite a punch.

In about two minutes, club owner Lance Byrns said, the wind uprooted many trees and snapped many others in half. One tree fell on a power line; another fell against a power pole, and one power pole on the course snapped in half.

Byrns was working in the golf course’s shop during the storm, which sounded like simple wind and rain. He was deeply saddened by the damage to the course, which he has worked on extensively during his ownership.

“It’s terrible,” Byrns said. “It’s hard to look at.”

Byrns immediately announced the club’s temporary closure and summoned tree crews to survey the damage.

“The cleanup’s going to begin tomorrow,” he said on Saturday. “Then, time. It’s just going to take time.”

It couldn’t have come at a worse time for local and visiting golfers, who had booked many tee times for the fourth of July window. Even more bitterly ironic: Byrns had Asplundh Tree Expert Company to work on the course’s trees.

“Asplundh has been here for a month, cleaning,” Byrns said.

Locals arranged a volunteer work party for Monday, July 1, doing whatever they could to assist. Golfer Kenn Depew arranged a work party that attracted help from youth and families, including Scott and Colleen Duflo and family.

Colleen Duflo admits she’s not a golfer – yet – but she works in economic development and knows how devastating the storm is to business at the country club.

“He’s not a customer of mine, but he’s important to our community,” Duflo said. “He’s a focal point in our community.”

Byrns was lucky, in a way, that none of the trees landed on the golf course greens or tee boxes, she said. “It’s a miracle that nothing fell on them,” she said. “According to Lance, that would have taken years to repair and get in good shape so they could operate again. He’s very lucky – not to minimize what happened.”

Byrns isn’t sure yet when the golf course can reopen.

“I don’t have a timeframe,” he said. “I can’t see past… this tree.”

The course is insured, including for lost revenue.

“This is pretty big for this little community to have something like this come through,” Byrns said. “We’ve been here 11 years, and never seen anything like this.”