‘Fore’ or ‘timber’? Tree takes out truck at Oakdale golf course

Ram tough. That’s what Dodge would say about Donnie Wright’s 2006 Ram 2500 pickup.

And Wright agrees it was a great truck. Key word: “was.” Because it was no match for the roughly 60-foot Italian stone pine that fell on it Thursday morning at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club.

Sonora resident Wright, a 30-year club member, arrived about 7 a.m. and was on the driving range 10 minutes later when he heard a crack and looked over to see the tree falling. “Well, that’s my truck gone,” he recalled saying to a fellow golfer.

For a guy who realized that if he’d arrived at the course minutes later – or lingered in his truck – he might not be around to talk about it, Wright was taking the situation well. “My son-in-law will laugh like hell about this,” he said as he sat in the clubhouse late Thursday morning, while a Grover Tree Service crew worked to carve up, grind up and haul away the tree.

And when Jay Ward walked over to tell Wright he was sorry he was having a bad day, the 83-year-old replied, “No birdies, but I’m doing OK.”

He did confess, though, “I just loved that truck.”

His wife had been encouraging him to get a new one, but Wright said the Ram was broken in just right. “I said, ‘If I get a new one, I’ll have to run it through the brush a few times so it gets some dents, and I don’t have to worry about that.’ 

The odometer was at about 150,000, but the Ram still had a lot of miles left, he said. Of course, now it’s simply broken, not broken in, so it looks like he’ll have a new truck after all.

But not before he salvages the truck’s tires, which he just recently put on. Wright said he’d have the Ram towed back to Sonora and to his son’s tire shop.

The good-humored golfer also remarked that he should get some firewood from the tree. The pine owed him that much.

In the clubhouse, club General Manager Rick Schultz was telling Wright that they’d both need to file claims with the club’s insurer, Nationwide.

“But Nationwide is on my side,” Wright quipped.

“It’s on our side, too,” Schultz said.

The general manager said that while a tree crushing a vehicle is a real rarity at the country club, falling trees and branches are not. “We had a huge branch come off an oak tree about six years ago,” Schultz said. “Branch loss is a common occurrence when you have 2,500 trees on a course. You’re going to lose one every once in a while.”

Wright said he knows a thing or two about trees, and the core of the tree trunk looked like it was rotting.

Jeremy McCombs of Grover said it’s hard to tell if that’s what brought it down. It might have been long-ago construction damage to the tree finally catching up to it. One thing he said could be ruled out was drought stress. “It’s not drought – not this close to a golf course.”

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327