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Paiute course weathers the worst, ready for the new year

Start a New Year’s column with a catch phrase from the early 1970s? Crazy, I admit.

Yet Jan. 1 is surrounded by catch phrases about starting anew, making resolutions and losing those dreaded holiday pounds. Don’t look for them here, though.

“It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.” June 28, 1972, was when Mother Nature uttered those words upon discovering Chiffon margarine was not made with nature’s best fresh butter. Thunder and lightning then appeared to confirm the now-campy words.

Jan. 1 has a much better meaning in the golf world in 2014. That’s when the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort reopened the Wolf course to the public after a 41/2-month cleanup, repair and restoration caused by two Mother Nature-powered events.

On July 1, 2013, lightning struck near Mount Charleston and sparked the damaging Carpenter 1 blaze. Firefighters battled the fire for a month, and officials finally declared Carpenter 1 officially contained on July 14. In its wake, the fire left the area denuded of vegetation.

Then came monsoon season.

It started raining at 1 p.m. Aug. 25, and it continued for days.

Chad Gunier, general manager of Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, was heading back into Vegas from California. He headed straight to the resort.

“Nobody saw this coming. When it started raining, we pulled the golfers off all three courses,” he said.

“Tiger (Woods) was playing well that day, so most people stayed in the clubhouse to watch him play on TV. Then the entrance road to the course washed out, and everybody was stuck here until 11:30, when it was safe to escort the people to Highway 95. From there, the Highway Patrol escorted them through the flooded 95 into Las Vegas.”

Eventually, the storm caused heavy damage to all three Paiute courses. All had to close. Chad said, “It was really emotional, watching the damage. We put in a lot of work over the year to get the courses in top-notch condition. We don’t overseed, and September was going to be a great month for us. Tournament rounds were packed, and we had nine wedding parties in September to fulfill.”

Chad and Jeff Reid, director of golf course maintenance and tribal leader, had their hands full.

“First, we checked our emotions,” Chad said. Then the two men established a priority time line plan that included making the Snow Mountain course No. 1 on the list. “Snow still had its pumping station intact, so we concentrated on that. We had to make Snow Mountain hole No. 18 perfect, as that is the backdrop view for all the weddings.”

Mission accomplished.

Work continued nonstop for the next four months. Chad brought in four golf course contractors from around the country, hired more than 75 golf course maintenance workers and brought in a battalion of tractors and other heavy equipment.

“Our work week?” Chad asked with a big smile, “was sunup to sundown.”

Snow Mountain reopened on Oct. 1. Sun Mountain reopened on Nov. 1. The last piece of the puzzle was Wolf’s opening on Jan. 1.

“I invited three members to play with me, the first foursome on Wolf since it closed,” Chad said. “It was sweet.”

I asked Chad for any lessons learned or take-aways from the experience.

Again, that smile. “I’m amazed at the amount of devastation that took place in such a short time. In an hour and a half, we had 4 inches of rain, more than in an average year. One worker found a pine cone on the course during work. The nearest pine tree is over 17 miles away. Civil engineering is also amazing. A lot of work was done. We had a lot of flooding. The valley’s other golf courses also helped by accommodating rounds that were scheduled for our facility. Our members supported us during the closure. They have all come back and are now enjoying golf here at Paiute again. And it’s good to get back all the employees that we had. It was hard on them, especially during the season.”

“Oh, one more thing,” Chad said. “All three courses are in better shape than before, best ever. Come on out and play!”

Will do. Chalk one up for mankind.

John Asay is a longtime golfer and local freelance writer. Contact him at jasay@reviewjournal.com.

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