Sutton family tackles downed trees at Byron Hills

It should be a busy Tuesday at Byron Hills Golf Club. But on this Tuesday, the clubhouse is deserted. Golf carts are lined up in rows.

Not far away, a roaring chipper replaces clinking clubs.

“I planted just about every one of these,” said Larry Sutton.

High winds and heavy rains downed dozens of trees at the course, leaving quite a clean-up for the family-owned business.

“It was a lifetime of work for me because I’ve been here 40 years,” Larry continued.

That all changed at 5:15 p.m. on Monday. Security video captured the storm’s strength. Course co-owners Bruce and Penny Sutton were playing golf when a warning came through on their cell phone.

“It was getting really dark,” Bruce recalled. “The wind was starting to pick up. We knew something was coming.”

The storm’s speed made damage even more surprising. But modern technology helped to protect a handful of golfers still on the course.

“The rain was just sideways,” Bruce said. “You could only see maybe 50 feet.”

One tree wound up face down in a sand trap. Others were uprooted across the 18 holes. It will change the course’s landscape.

“I think, maybe, this is the worst one,” said June Sutton, whose late husband Warren bought the golf course in 1971.

“I kind of hate to see my mom pull up,” Bruce said. “It got a little emotional for me.”

Despite the workload and understandable frustration, there’s optimism from the Sutton family matriarch.

“It’s done before you know it,” June said. “It grows. It will be fine.”

Insurance should cover the damage. They hope to re-open nine holes on Wednesday. Golfers should call ahead at (309) 523-2664 to verify the playing conditions.

“We’ll bring her back,” Bruce concluded. “We always do.”

The Sutton family and their staff will restore Byron Hills, one tree at a time.

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