There are no golfers and haven’t been since Callan, watching storm coverage on television at his home, called back late on the afternoon of April 27 and ordered that stragglers be warned off the course.
The greens, newly improved with champion ultra dwarf grass, are hardly tournament-ready.
Stumps and large dirt patches mark spots where trees once stood, and the giant land scar left by an EF-4 tornado comes complete with all-new panoramics.
But don’t expect to hear Callan fret the week that would have been had a natural disaster not taken one of the area’s best courses out of the area’s signature tournament this year.
“It’s just a golf course,” he said as he leaned his head toward the facility’s entrance and the smashed homes just outside. “Go out there and talk to people in the neighborhood.”
Silver Lakes will rebuild in some form, it was announced in mid-June, and work will continue this week. This as nearly 400 golfers round courses at Cider Ridge, Anniston Country Club and an improved Pine Hill, the course that took Silver Lakes’ place for this year’s King Classic.
Architect Roger Rulewich has viewed aerial pictures will visit Silver Lakes this week. He’ll see a much improved scene from the one left by the April 27 tornado, which caused $3-5 million in damage.
Still no maintenance building, but the clubhouse roof is repaired and the water pump facility rebuilt. Sprinklers once again water the course.
Gone are cow carcasses and most of the nearly 40,000 downed trees.
Also gone are and what Callan called “missiles” — limbs and other items driven into the ground by the tornado’s winds, which the National Weather Service said peaked at nearly 180 mph. Human hands removed some missiles, but it took machinery to pluck others.
Callan keeps a few souvenirs, like an invoice that was returned from Rome, Ga.
His favorite item is a tree limb poking through a green, plastic colander. He snapped the limb-and-colander set from a tree.
He plans to remove the post from the battered, green-and-gold cart path sign that once pointed the way to Silver Lakes’ four ominously named, 9-hole courses. He’ll keep the sign in his office.
Several of Silver Lakes’ 36 holes sustained some damage, most noticeably the following: No. 1 plus 6-9 on the Heartbreaker course; Mindbreaker Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9; Backbreaker Nos. 1, 7, 8 and 9; and short course Nos. 4-8.
Much of the damage involved lost trees.
Callan said it’s likely the course will get some transplanted trees but hardly enough to replace all of those lost. New sand bunkers and tall grass will have to challenge golfers where trees once did.
King Classic committee member Hank Smith suspects the Silver Lakes courses will take on a different character through the blocks of holes most damaged by the tornado.
“I haven’t seen it, but I’ve played golf courses all over the world,” he said. “To me, it seems like it might look more like a links-style course when this is done.”
He said he expects the course will be just as challenging.
“Silver Lakes is a pretty wide-open course to begin with,” he said. “From tee to green, I don’t think that the course will change much. There’s only a handful of holes out there where trees really come into play, so it’s just purely going to be more of an aesthetic change.”
Renovations will likely continue after Silver Lakes reopens in September.
Callan, who pitched the course’s return to the King Classic rotation in 2010 after a four-year absence, hopes to do so again, maybe as early as next year.
“We’re going to make a great situation out of what was really a tragic situation,” he said.
Smith lauded Pine Hill’s improvement and the work of pro Cory Etter to smooth over this year’s sudden course change, but Smith said having Silver Lakes in the rotation strengthens the tournament.
“Ideally, we like to have a rotation among all of the courses in the community — Pine Hill and Cane Creek included,” Smith said. “But, I don’t think anyone would argue that Silver Lakes, Anniston (Country Club) and Cider Ridge are the best in the area.
“If we want to offer the highest-quality event that we can offer, then those are the three courses that we‘re going to choose.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Jomedstar.