HURRICANE HARVEY: ONE YEAR LATER
A year ago this week, Shannon Fish (Spring, Texas) was doing the same thing she is this year—making the trip from her residence in Houston to South Dakota for the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge—only with the eye of Hurricane Harvey threatening her hometown.
The storm made landfall over the Texas Gulf Coast on Friday, August 25 and worked its way up the Lone Star State. Then on Tuesday, August 29, Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston, leaving a path of destruction and inflicting an estimated $125 billion in damage.
“I can’t believe that it has already been a year,” said Fish. “When I was getting ready to leave Houston late last week I was talking with my folks about it and they were like, ‘Yeah, one year ago you weren’t sure you could leave. I find that when I’m at home, or traveling, it’s something that people don’t really want to talk about anymore and what they’ve been through. Everyone is simply trying to move on from it.”
Greater than 1,000 miles from home at the time of the tropical cyclone, Fish took to Twitter as the storm wreaked havoc across her native state. The University of Texas alumna pledged to her more than 5,000 followers that she would donate $100 for every birdie and $500 for every eagle at the 2017 Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge.
Her social media effort spread like wildfire. Fans out at Willow Run Golf Course offered to make donations. Family connections across the country came out of the woodworks. Rivals on the course became friends. Then tournament sponsor GreatLIFE offered to match the pledges, up to $50,000.
“This place brings back good memories because we remember what we all did together and how much we accomplished,” Fish said. “What we started here really kicked off for other athletes, other professional golfers, so it just shows you how crazy one tweet can go I guess.”
In the end, a grand total of $91,000 was raised for the Houston Relief Fund, All Hands and Hearts and local first responders from Team Rubicon.
“I will never forget what [GreatLIFE CEO] Tom Walsh did for the movement that I was trying to make, or the help that he provided, I’ll never ever forget that,” said Fish. “I think one of the things that I am going to remember most is seeing how many of my friends got behind it, my competitors and girls here on the Tour that I didn’t really know at the time, how much they got behind it. Even the community coming to the event and filling out pledge cards.”
Now a year later, Fish has since seen the devastation first-hand and how the funds are helping.
“I went out in the field twice—once with All Hands and Hearts, and once with Team Rubicon— and presented the checks to them, saw what they are doing,” Fish said. “Even though the hurricane happened last August I couldn’t believe how much stuff still had to be done, but that part about it was believable because of all the damage. One of the complexes that part of the money was going to to help rebuild, people are still living in terrible situations. There I was walking around with a mask and hazmat suit on and they are sleeping in that place every night.”
While there is still work left to do, much has already been done and the attitude showcased by Texans to get back on their feet is one that resembles their fighting spirit.
“We helped rebuild three apartments in a particular community, so those three families are back to being safe,” said Fish. “That part is encouraging, but it’s all still really overwhelming. I do think one thing to always talk about on the anniversary is how the community came together and how other states came together to help Houston. Hearing people care so much and continue to care is something I think we shouldn’t forget, continuing to talk about how everyone came together is something I think everyone should remember.”
HAGLUND, ROHANNA BACK IN COMPETITION MODE
A couple familiar names to the Symetra Tour return to competition this week at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge in Rachel Rohanna (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania) and rookieJenny Haglund (Karlstad, Sweden).
The last time Haglund was in the field for an event on the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour was the Donald Ross Classic from July 12-14. In nine starts this season, that was the lone missed cut for the former Southern Methodist University (SMU) standout.
Since her absence, Haglund competed in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open over back-to-back weeks at the end of July and beginning of August. She finished tied for 11th in Scotland at 4-under par and missed the cut in England.
Prior to coming back over the pond, Haglund took three weeks off from tournament action to rest up for the final six-week stretch to end the 2018 Symetra Tour campaign.
“I feel more ready than ever to be back here,” said Haglund, who is currently No. 4 in the Volvik Race for the Card with $49,751. “I needed to rest if I wanted to keep going for two more months. It was a hard decision to make, but I had to listen to my body. I’m happy to be back and now have more motivation going into the last events.”
Meanwhile, Rohanna only played Florida’s Natural Charity Classic before maternity leave. The Ohio State University alumna became a first-time mother on June 12 when she and husband Ethan Virgili welcomed Gemelia Grace Virgili into the world. One month later she was on the course for the LPGA’s Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I.
“It’s extremely difficult to travel with her, figuring out how she is sleeping in the hotel room and when we should do different things,” Rohanna said. “I’m out there for five hours and don’t know what she is doing, just hoping she is sleeping and not missing me. This is the first week she is away from her dad and that is tough on me because I know she is missing him.”
Although Rohanna missed the cut, the turnaround was incredible.
“A couple days after I had her, I pretty much felt fine,” said Rohanna. “I feel like I have recovered quickly. Two weeks after having her I was practicing and I think everyone is different. It might take a year to get back into it, or a couple days. With golfing, the most difficult thing was my distance control and now I can take it back a little farther than when I was pregnant.”
Tomorrow, Rohanna tees it up at 7:52 a.m. CT and Haglund opens play at 1:26 p.m. CT. Both individuals will head off No. 1 at Willow Run Golf Course for the first round.