The 1986 U.S. Women’s Open Championship was played at the NCR South Course. FILE
Photo: Ron Alvey
Photo: Ron Alvey

U.S. Women’s Open made impact at NCR South for hard-hitting reasons

Making sports or weather predictions is not for those seeking longtime security.

It can be done, though, like in 1986.

That’s the year NCR South hosted the U.S. Women’s Open Championship and as the week progressed, Dayton Daily News sports writer Gary Nuhn predicted – sort of – an earthquake, which actually happened.

Golf purists might remember that Open for the Monday playoff between eventual winner Jane Geddes and Sally Little, but if you were there, you remember why Nuhn was already calling it the Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong) Open entering third-round Saturday play.

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All this came to mind last week as Southern California was hit with a couple of earthquakes, which followed our tornado blitz in the Miami Valley. And, by the way, it’s mid-July, when the 1986 Open took place.

Entering Saturday’s third round, Nuhn – now casually retired in a year-round warm climate – made the observation/prediction/request.

Already a train derailment in nearby Miamisburg two days prior to the first round dumped a load of white phosphorus, causing a fire and giant plumes of smoke, leading to the evacuation of 30,000 residents. Another fire from the phosphorus broke out on Wednesday, denying some players access to the course.

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Even before that there was an omen it might be a rough week. Nine hospitality tents were found to be sloping so badly, Bloody Mary cocktails would slide off the tables. That was one of the easier fixes of the week.

Booming thunderstorms interrupted Thursday play for 83 minutes and Friday swarms of locusts tried to crowd out players as well as spectators.

Nuhn put his tongue in his cheek.

“Saturday, how about an earthquake?” he wrote for the Friday edition. “And Sunday, to finish the week just right, Armageddon?”

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We never did reach Armageddon, but the earthquake was rumbling Saturday in Auglaize County, up by St. Marys, and could be felt in Dayton, which suffered minor damage and some loss of electricity.

There was also another thunderstorm, closing down the course for two hours, 17 minutes, expanding the three-day total delay to four hours, 30 minutes.

It was beyond the point where sports writers could talk to players about their games and call it news.

Ayako Okamoto, the Japanese golfer who went into Sunday’s final round one shot behind then-leader Betsy King, related to sports writer Bucky Albers an old Japanese saying of four things a person should be fearful of: Jishin (earthquakes), Kaminari (lightning), Kaji (fire) and Oyaji (your father).

Her father wasn’t at the Open, but the other three fears were.

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Of Saturday’s round, Nuhn wrote, “It was wise to bring an umbrella to NCR South Saturday.

“It was wiser still to bring a change of clothes.

“It was wisest to bring a hard hat, an inflatable raft and a life jacket.”

All this was too much to pack into four days of golf, so naturally there had to be a playoff, which Geddes won, 71 to 73.

She didn’t stick around an extra few days for celebration.

“We’ll remember Dayton forever,” said Geddes’ mother, Helen. “This is a thrill of a lifetime. After her birth, this is the next biggest thing.”

Earthquake and all.

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