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Players, Officials Cope With Weather at U.S. Women's Open

USGA officials and players have struggled to cope with both thunderstorms and heat at the U.S. Women's Open in Pinehurst.

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PINEHURST, N.C. — This week, Mother Nature probably won't be counted among the thousands of golf fans converging on Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club for the U.S. Women's Open.

Saturday marked the first day this week that weather did not cause play to be suspended.

Nearly 50 people were treated for heat-related illnesses Saturday, but none were in serious condition, officials said. Most required only some shade and water to be back out on the course.

"This (the weather) has been a very big challenge this week," said Kathy Gordon, a USGA official who has worked 11 U.S. Opens.

Gordon said the weather can best be compared the weather to a bogie rather than a birdie.

"This is the first time we've ever, even in practice rounds, have gone and suspended play every day," she said.

When dark skies roll in, it's up to a on-site meteorologist to make the call whether it is safe to play.

"He (the meteorologist) is in an undisclosed location where he has all kinds of radar and weather devices," said Gordon. "He also has a lightning detection device that he looks at."

USGA officials follow a rule of thumb that if lightning is within 15 miles of a golf course, play must be stopped. Decisions also take into account the distance and severity of storms, said officials.

If play is suspended, Wiz Horner, head of the USGA's evacuation committee, swings into action. He and his team of volunteers are in charge of evacuating the golf course.

"Our main purpose is to take care of the players, standard bearers, caddies, USGA officials out there on the course," said Horner.

Transport vans are set up at eight designated locations around Pine Needles.

"Players know where to go and where to move to. They either come in and sit in the van if play might be resumed. If play is not going to be resumed, then we bring them back to the club house," said Horner.

While Mother Nature has had her way at the U.S. Women's Open this week, some USGA officials are taking a philosophical approach.

"We've needed the rain in the area, so we're trying to take a happy spin on it," said Gordon.


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