NORTON, Mass. – For the past three or four nights, nearly two dozen people, give or take a few, have taken refuge from Hurricane Harvey in Chris Stroud’s Texas home.
He lives on high ground in Spring, which is about 20 miles north of Houston, among the areas hit hardest by the freakish, furious storm. Friends have fled suburbs to come to Stroud’s house, which he says is “built like a fortress” and mercifully has stayed dry despite being pounded by more than 50 inches of rain. Neighbors without power have come knocking, as well.
“The kids have been getting along well,” Stroud says. “A couple of guys have been cooking. That’s usually my job. I like to cook a lot.
“But I’ve got a big wine cellar and (we’re) trying to ease the pain a little bit.”
Stroud is doing more than letting his displaced friends camp out at his home, though. He has pledged $10,000 and 10 percent of his winnings this week at the Dell Technologies Championship to the relief effort and hopes others follow suit.
Stroud was inspired by Houston Texan defensive end J.J. Watt, who started a fund-raising campaign on youcaring.com earlier this week that has taken off like a rocket. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than $6.7 million had been pledged through the page that Watt set up.
“So I saw that yesterday that he was raising money, and I thought, that's exactly what I'm going to do,” says Stroud, who also wants to organize a charity pro-am. “So I called the TOUR and I said, ‘What can I do?’ … And I said, ‘How do I do this? Who do we use?’”
The TOUR, which has more than 30 members who live in the Houston area, responded with a $250,000 donation to the Red Cross. Fans can also make donations online as well as at kiosks on site this week at TPC Boston.
Still, the stories of sadness and struggle are everywhere – and some hit very close to home.
Patrick Reed, who also lives in Spring, says the Weather Channel has replaced the baseball games and other sports he normally watches on TV. He took out his phone Wednesday afternoon beside the putting green at TPC Boston and showed a sportswriter a photo of his back yard at 7 p.m. at night – and another, taken 11 hours later after Harvey started to punish the area.
“(We live) 200 yards from Spring Creek and it’s 92 feet below our property line,” Reed says. “I got a call from my buddy, frantic, and this (photo) was at 6 p.m. the next morning. The whole thing’s under water.
“This is a basketball goal that is 6 feet and the water was already over it,” Reed continued, pointing at the picture, which shows the outline of a pool under the muddy water. “It came up so fast, it was scary and I know a lot of people got trapped.”
Luckily for Reed, the water, which spread across his 4-acre property, stopped just shy of the front door of his house and has steadily receded. His in-laws rode out the storm there, along with his daughter, Windsor Wells, her nanny and the director of his charitable foundation.
“They barricaded everything and it got six inches short of the house and it receded,” Reed says. “… The worst is done. The sun was out yesterday afternoon. So hopefully, the water just keeps receding. It’s tragic what happened in Houston. For that storm just to sit over us like that and to watch how many people got affected, it’s going to be hard to bounce back but Houston will be able to do it.”
Jhonattan Vegas has lived in Houston off and on since 2002 when he moved to the United States from Venezuela to follow his dream of playing on the PGA TOUR. His wife and their 17-month-old daughter were in Houston when Harvey hit while Vegas was preparing for the Dell Technologies Championship and playing a Presidents Cup practice round at Liberty National.
“(They) haven’t been able to leave the house for five days,” Vegas says. “We were lucky enough that around our area nothing flooded but all the rain coming down, all the lightning, a tornado hit not far from my house. So, it’s always tough, sleeping well or doing anything around here when you’re dealing with Mother Nature that way.”
Vegas, who ranks eighth in the International Presidents Cup standings, has pledged $25,000 to the relief effort through J.J. Watt’s youcaring.com page.
Stroud says Dawie van der Walt, who was on the PGA TOUR last year and currently plays the Web.com Tour, has 4 feet of water in his Kingwood, Texas home.
“His house is completely devastated,” Stroud said. “He texted me some pictures yesterday. It's really sad.”
Shawn Stefani, who lives in Baytown, which is southeast of Houston, barely beat the worst of Harvey’s fury as he headed to Ohio to play in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
“On the way up to Dallas, he passed a 200-truck convoy of what they call the Cajun Navy,” Stroud says. “I'm sure you've heard of this. It's guys from Louisiana bringing their boats, their jacked-up trucks to help. And he said there was a subdivision probably 500 or 600 homes under four feet of water, and all these trucks were in line to back up their boats and go save people.”
Stroud has a similar truck that he estimates extends about 4 feet into the air and can drive through 5 feet of water. So his buddies made good use of it, driving around the neighborhood to rescue people and pets.
Stroud originally was supposed to make a quick trip home to Texas on Sunday. When he missed the cut at THE NORTHERN TRUST, he considered trying to get a jump on Harvey, which ended up sitting over southeast Texas for five days and dumping several trillion gallons on rain on the area.
“I talked to my wife, my family, my friends, and the thing they were concerned about, if I did get back home, how could I get back out.” Stroud says. “And it was tough. My heart goes out to all the people there. Obviously I was extremely worried about my family being at home.”
His wife considered taking the couple’s two daughters and going to their house at a lake about two hours north of Spring. Stroud didn’t know how to advise her from afar, but some of his buddies, one of whom is a retired Navy SEAL, stepped in and helped make the decision to stay.
“I think it was Sunday night where it really got scary,” Stroud says. “There was lightning, flood, tornado threats. There was a tornado that hit in my neighborhood, north Houston, and just scary. And the power was going in and out. … I couldn't get to them. I couldn't call them -- and the landline's down.
“So it was scary for me to just sit here. My heart is somewhere else and I'm supposed to be getting prepared for golf. It's just, you know, it makes you realize what's most important in your life is your family and friends.”
One of those friends, former TOUR player Kelly Gibson, has reached out to Stroud several times in the last week. He’s from New Orleans and weathered Hurricane Katrina, even helping to serve food to first responders during the devastating hurricane, and watched as his beloved city resurrected itself.
Stroud, who picked up his first TOUR victory last month at the Barracuda Championship, said Gibson’s most recent text was “humongous,” estimating that it clocked in at 70 lines. Among other things, he wanted to give Stroud advice on how to compartmentalize.
“When you're on the golf course, focus on the golf and when you're off the golf course, focus on what you can do to keep your family everything and safe,” Stroud recalls Gibson writing.
“The things that I did read on the text last night that I haven't finished was it's going to take months and years for this rebuild of Houston, and he said, just, you know, just be prepared for that. Be prepared for the process of what it takes to rebuild a city.
“It's really, really sad.”