In many ways the easy part of the bushfires is the fires themselves. At the height of the emergency, it’s crystal clear what needs to be done: flames need to be fought or escaped while the preservation of life and property are the only priorities.
The more complicated part of the bushfires is what comes after. Once the immediate crisis has passed and the news crews have moved on, what’s left is a mixture of fear, financial stress and an ongoing, nagging worry about what the future holds.
Tura Beach Head Professional Loraine Lambert is familiar with all these emotions.
From the sudden realisation on New Year’s Eve that the south coast town was surrounded by flames to the confronting reality in the weeks that followed that she is down 60 per cent on business from the same period last year, the fires have taken their toll on Lambert just like everybody else.
“And that’s just me,” the former international Touring professional says of the startling drop in trade.
“I’m fortunate; people are still playing golf. The members are here, and they’re great members, and they’re still playing, but there are places in town……”
“It’s a ghost town, to be honest. I’m really feeling for the other small businesses. It’s really hard, and it’s going to be that way for a long time it seems.”
Like everyone on the 300 kilometre stretch of holiday coast that runs from Nowra to Eden, Lambert says she will never forget the terrifying series of days between New Year’s Eve and January 7.
Bushfire is a uniquely frightening thing to confront, and only those who have been near it have a full understanding of the impact it has on the senses.
“Unless you’ve been in it like I have now, you can’t comprehend it,” she says matter of factly as she scrolls through pictures on her phone depicting bright orange skies and a smoke haze so thick it defies description.
“You can see the photos and watch the news, and the videos people took on their phones, but you can’t smell it or feel the heat or the changing air or the choking smoke.
“These photos….they’re not a 3D representation of what was happening.”
When Golf NSW visited Tura Beach in late January there were still concerns about fires flaring again; a reality Lambert was acutely aware of.
When told of a quote attributed to Ben Hogan that says ‘It’s not the hook, it’s the fear of the hook,’ she smiles wryly and nods.
“When the fires first came through it was like being trapped,” she says. “We were surrounded on all sides, and that was awful.
“And now, even though it’s a stunning day today and you can see across the course to the ocean, and it’s just spectacular, there is a nagging worry that the fires might come back.
“You can’t properly enjoy anything because there’s always this feeling in the back of your mind that maybe the danger hasn’t really passed yet.
“I still see the pictures in my mind of those people trapped on the beach at Mallacoota. That could have been us…”
Unspoken is the concern that it still might be.
With all NSW bushfires now under control that is no longer a concern but the reality now must be faced of what the recovery will look like.
In describing her expectations of what’s to come, Lambert says the community at Tura Beach is ‘resilient’ before pausing.
“I bet you’ve heard that word from people right up and down the coast, haven’t you?” she asks before answering her own question.
“That’s because people are. The people here and in all the other towns up and down the coast are resilient.
“It won’t be easy, but they’ll rebuild.”
Lambert is correct that ‘resilient’ is a sentiment oft-repeated at every club visited by Golf NSW for this series of stories.
But the truth is none of these clubs or towns can do it on their own. All will need help from the entire community, golfers included.
The good news is that all that is required of us as golfers is to do what we would do anyway, just in a different location.
A golf break on the South Coast of NSW could hardly be deemed an imposition and under the circumstances – ironically – it’s difficult to imagine a better time to do it.
Golf NSW urges all golfers to consider a trip to this region in 2020 to not only experience fabulous golf but to help a sector of the community that genuinely needs it.