By Len Ziehm

This might well turn out to be the best feel good story in golf in 2022. Gaylord, Michigan, a town of 4,200 residents, and the small towns surrounding it have long been on the cutting edge of golf marketing.  Led by executive director Paul Beachnau, the Gaylord Golf Mecca was created in 1987 to showcase all the great courses in that area of northern Michigan.

By the start of 2022 the Mecca had grown to 17 golf course members and 21 lodging partners.  Only the Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday has been in business longer as a cooperative marketing effort in golf and, most noteworthy, there are no major cities included in the Mecca.  It’s all small towns working together to bring in golfers.

They did that quite well, and we’re expecting a banner year with the town of Gaylord preparing to celebrate its Centennial this summer. Then came May 20, 2022 – a frightful day, to put it mildly.

In mid-afternoon, with little advance warning, a tornado attacked Gaylord.  It wasn’t a little one, either. This one had the width of two football fields, maximum wind speeds of 150 miles per hour and was on the ground for 20 minutes.  Two residents died and 44 were injured. Some were without power for three days.

Here’s just one indication that the tornado that struck Gaylord meant serious business.

Meteorologists said it was the strongest twister to hit Michigan in 10 years and the first in the Gaylord area since 2014.  For at least three days the town of Gaylord was prominent in national news reports. That didn’t bode well with the town’s golfing visitors starting to arrive.

“A lot of media made it look like our town was levelled,’’ said Beachnau.  “It wasn’t.’’

The TV and print news coverage showed damage in the downtown area, though.  It was hard to ignore those images, but Beachnau insisted that “none of our hotels were affected and virtually no damage was done on any of our golf courses. It missed all of our tourism aspects.’’

One course, we were told, had golfers back on the course an hour after the tornado.  More