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Inside GCM: A deer in the headlights


When we first began publishing this column in the pages of GCM, we did so with a couple of goals in mind.

First, we wanted to give the members of our editorial team a dedicated space to chime in on matters relevant to golf course superintendents, a place where we could share both our observations and our opinions on what we were seeing, hearing and encountering during our travels and interactions with folks working in golf course management.

Second, and probably most interesting from a reader’s perspective, we wanted a space that would allow us to tell the stories behind the stories — to explain why we pursued the stories we did, how we went about doing so, and what we learned along the way.

In that vein, do I have a doozy for you about my trip to Erin Hills for last month’s U.S. Open. 

As I’ve described here in the past, GCM has been dedicated to providing behind-the-scenes reporting — both in print and online — on golf course maintenance activities at golf’s biggest events since way back in 2005, at that year’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club. Since then, our friends at GCSAA TV have joined the fun with tons of excellent video content. Other industry media have followed suit, and now, some of the best coverage comes via social media updates from those doing the actual work out on the course.

Staying true to all of that, I traveled to Wisconsin to spend a few days embedded with the crew at Erin Hills, a trip that included early mornings, late nights and a lot of writing mixed in between. On the Tuesday morning of my visit, around 4:30 a.m., I was steering my rental car down a winding, two-lane road, just a few miles from the maintenance facility. Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” had just shuffled onto my Spotify playlist (so I’m a part-time headbanger — sue me), and, despite the hour, all seemed right with the world.

And that’s when the deer showed up. As I maneuvered a slight bend in the road, a particularly impatient deer darted from the woods to my left. Before my brain could process what was happening, he slammed into the front quarter panel of the car, leaving a grapefruit-sized dent above the front tire. He then slid along the entire driver’s side of the car, damaging part of the rear bumper before bouncing up and running back into the woods where he’d come from. Alas, we were unable to exchange insurance information.

For my part, I just kept driving. The smart thing to do would have been to find a spot to pull over and assess the damage, but both my mind and heart were racing, making rational thought difficult. It wasn’t until I’d arrived at Erin Hills and my thought process and pulse had returned to normal that I took stock of what had happened and realized just how close I’d come to something truly catastrophic. If that deer had been 2 to 3 feet ahead of schedule, someone else would have likely written this column.

Thankfully, my run-in with a deer on a dark Wisconsin highway turned out to be just a minor hiccup in what was an otherwise excellent trip to Erin Hills. The car was drivable, I was uninjured (wish I could say the same for the deer), and at the end of the day, we were able to tell some interesting stories and share some great insights from our time at the U.S. Open.

On a personal level, though, the whole experience was one of those eye-opening, be-thankful-for-what-you-have moments — the kind that can’t help but put a lot of things into perspective for you. And when I consider that the whole thing made for one of the most memorable and, if I’m being honest, most terrifying “stories behind the stories” I’ve ever been involved in during my time at GCSAA and GCM, I guess it was all worth it. Well, unless you were the deer.

Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.