Kromar makes it to Bayville due to effects of extreme Texas drought September 16, 2011 By Hunki Yun, USGA

Virginia Beach, Va. - It had been so long since Nancy Kromar had played in the rain that when she put on her outerwear for the first stroke-play round of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at wet, windy Bayville Golf Club, she made a cruel discovery.

It wasn’t rain gear, said the 51-year-old Kromar, who had completed 12 holes at before officials suspended the round. It was just gear."

After stepping out of the van that had transported her back to the clubhouse following the suspension of play, the self-employed computer programmer marched directly to the golf shop, where she was one of many cold, drenched contestants replacing soaked clothing with new shirts, hats, socks and sweaters.

It was easy to understand why Kromar wasn’t fully prepared for the soggy, chilly conditions. She lives in Austin, the capital of Texas, which has suffered through a year-long drought and record-high temperatures – there have been more than 80 days with 100-degree temperatures in Austin in 2011.

The last time it rained was May, said Kromar, who is playing in her fifth U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. And before that, it was January.

Although Kromar is happy to be playing in another national championship – not to mention escaping from the heat – she is only competing at Bayville because of the tragic effects of the extreme weather in her home state.

Kromar took the spot made available when fellow Texan Kelley Louth withdrew on September 8, nine days before the start of the championship. The 25-year-old Louth couldn’t leave her job in the Austin office of a national company that restores homes damaged by water, fire, storms and other disasters.

Already inundated by claims following the damage wrought in the Northeast by Tropical Storm Irene, Louth’s firm had to deal with another calamity: wildfires in Texas. The worst conflagrations were in and around Bastrop, about 30 miles southeast of Austin.

By Saturday morning, firefighters had contained approximately 80 percent of the Bastrop fire, which began September 4 and has burned more than 34,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,500 homes – making it the costliest fire in Texas history.

I grew up here, says Louth, who played at the University of Texas, and I don’t remember anything as bad as this. It’s been really busy. There are so many people affected, and we’ve been trying to take care of everyone.

Louth anticipates that her company’s workload will continue to increase as more evacuated residents return and assess the damage to their homes. I was disappointed that I couldn’t play, she says, but it’s far more important to help the victims of the fire.

Louth had been looking forward to competing at Bayville after qualifying for the Women’s Mid-Amateur in her first year of eligibility. It would have been her sixth USGA championship (she has played in the Girls’ Junior, Women’s Amateur and the Women’s Amateur Public Links) and her first since her college days, when she was able to play and practice regularly.

Now, she is lucky to play once a week and squeezes in practice sessions whenever she has free time. It’s really hard to get out and play, says Louth, who is in charge of business development for her office. I have a lot of events after work. I work for a great company, but it’s a real challenge to make it happen in golf.

Making time for golf is something with which every Women’s Mid-Amateur competitor is familiar. Some had to take precious vacation days from work to play at Bayville. Others had to arrange weeklong babysitting duties for their children. Kromar had to finish several projects for clients before making the last-minute trip.

And as Louth discovered, sometimes other responsibilities take priority – a perfect illustration of what makes the Mid-Amateur a unique championship at the intersection of golf and life. 

Hunki Yun is a senior writer for the USGA. Email questions or comments to hyun@usga.org.