By PHIL MAJOR
A solemn sense of mourning descended over the Mineola Country Club last week as news spread that the 87-year-old golf club’s signature oak tree had fallen.
A storm packing high winds on Wednesday evening, July 10 took down the tree, revealing a burned-out trunk that had weakened the tree when it was struck by lightening six and a half years ago.
The tree burned for three days before that fire was extinguished, but it came back strong.
The tree has stood between the first tee box and second green for as long as there has been a golf course on the site, and estimates are it could be 250 to 300 years old.
Its silhouette adorns the club merchandise. It is featured in a painting and numerous drawings.
It’s been a rough year for trees at the course. Another tree, a pine, on the other side of the course also came down in the storm. A much smaller tree near the first tee came down recently, and a large branch from a tree could be seen along the right-of-way on Loop 564, not too far from the entrance.
Wednesday’s storm was unexpected, moving from the north-northeast, from the Red River. It packed some rain and high winds.
The tree fell down hill, away from the clubhouse, splitting in two as it fell, revealing the burned interior of its massive trunk.
Manager Nicole McCollom said she got the news Wednesday evening, and when she arrived for work Thursday, something was different. The horizon to the south was much more open.
She did not visit the site until after noon, unable to approach the devastation.
Club members and employees were discussing ways to memorialize the tree, perhaps with a chainsaw sculpture of the piece of trunk that remained standing and possibly cutting it up for souvenirs and making mementoes from it.
The upper limbs blocked a small section of the second fairway, not far from the green.
With the big couples tournament scheduled for the weekend, removing the tree had to be put on hold to prepare the course for one of the clubs’ biggest events.
Anyone unfortunate enough to hit into the tree was to be awarded a free drop.