I love golf! Ask any of my many golfer friends, they will tell you, “That Smiley guy loves to play golf.” But the truth is, I just love the time I spend on the golf course. As I approach, 6,000 days of my life spent on a golf course, I have learned to see things and notice things that most golfers don’t. A few examples: The “cut” of the variety of mowers used to create those wonderful putting surfaces; how the greens are mowed. Type of sand in bunkers; the care taken in raking them. And the note on the rakes, “leave rake in bunker” or “leave rake out of the bunker.” The care with which holes are replaced. Well you get the idea.
I have also grown to love the infinite variety of wildlife that makes the golf course their home.
1 in 100,000 Occurrence
My group included two players needing to finish in the top three to qualify for the season ending, Senior Tour Finals. We had completed six holes and my group was getting comfortable with the always incredibly fast greens at Oak Ridge. My dear old dad would have described those greens as, “Slick as snot on a broom handle”.
As Steve was about to “gently whisper at” a ticklish little down-hiller, he backed away from the putt as a pesky squirrel began chattering. I turned and looked in the direction of his distractor. Sure enough there it was, the albino squirrel of Oak Ridge Country Club. Luckily, I had tapped-in earlier and could observe the white squirrel as he busily prepared for winter.
Since that recent sighting I have done some research on white squirrels. There are actually two types of white squirrels: The true albino who, like all of Mother Nature’s albino mammals, lack pigment and are born pure white with red eyes. The albino squirrel is a 1 in 100,000 occurrence in nature and these creatures that lack the natural camouflage and have weak eyesight have a very short life expectancy. There is also a type of non-albino squirrels that exhibit a rare white fur coloration known as leucism that is as a result of a recessive gene found within the Eastern gray squirrel. Although these squirrels are commonly referred to as “albinos”, most of them are likely white squirrels, instead of albino.
There is a nation wide organization, the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society, ASPS, dedicated to watching and photographing white squirrels. A Facebook group dedicated to these squirrels, called I’ve Seen the Albino Squirrel of Michigan Tech, was created for people to post photographs and anecdotes of their encounters with the white squirrels.
The golf course in Brevard, NC is the home of a colony of white squirrels. Golfers from this good little golf course protect their pale rodents with loving care. Olney, IL, known as the “White Squirrel Capital of the World”, has more white squirrels than any city in the U.S. These snowy beauties have the right-of-way on all city streets and there is a $500 fine for hitting one. The Olney Police Department features the image of a white squirrel on its officers’ uniform patches. The University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire has a significant population of white squirrel on the campus and in other areas of the city. The University of Louisville has its own chapter of ASPS and gives a free t-shirt to anyone who takes a picture of a white squirrel on the grounds and takes it to the administration offices.
Back to Oak Ridge… we 2, 3 and 4-putted our way around the remaining holes on this perfectly maintained private club, then indulged in an adult beverage as we awaited the final results of the final Senior Tour event of the season. Talk of the albino squirrel quickly took a back seat to the qualifiers for the Finals, but in my mental library of nature recordings, the white squirrel that makes Oak Ridge his home is the newest member.