Legend of Leatherlips a wash this year at Memorial Tournament

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Rain at Muirfield during the Memorial Tournament has been par for the course, it seems.  Rain delays have occurred in 28 of the past 43 years.

Not this year. For once, we beat the odds, with mere sprinkles on Thursday for 15 minutes, shortly after noon.

On Friday storms developed late in the south of Dublin that brought corridors of heavy rain, wind and hail during the evening commute, but without a drop on the course. Saturday storms stayed well north of central Ohio until after midnight. 

The final rounds have been impacted hardest, with Mother Nature sending rain to central Ohio up to 70 percent of the time, usually in the form of drenching downpours.

Some have referred to the frequency of rain since 1976 as the so-called “curse” of Chief Leatherlips, who is buried on the eastern side of the Scioto River, across from what is now Muirfield.

His gravesite is on a knoll near Riverside Drive. This is where Chief Leatherlips was put to death in 1810 by a half-dozen rival members of his Wyandot tribe, who historians believe were not in favor of the chief’s good relations with the Dublin settlers, and for his signature on the Treaty of Grenville in 1795.

The treaty represented an agreement between the Wyandot, Delaware and the United State, re–establishing a boundary in the Northwest Territory between the Native American tribes and the new nation.

Local historian Jim Thompson’s great-great-grandfather Joseph, who died in 1862, took it upon himself to be the caretaker for Chief Leatherlips’ grave. Following a second proper burial, a monument was built in 1889 near the site next to an ancient burr oak tree.

Thompson  places a flower at the gravesite every year, believing that Chief Leatherlips was a hero. The Wyandot chief had forged a warm personal relationship with the five Sells brothers in Dublin and was widely respected as a neighbor and friend. 

Thompson posits that one of the reasons Leatherlips was executed was because he did not want to side against the Americans on the eve of the War of 1812.

He added that the name Leatherlips translated to “never told a lie.”

“Sometime back in the 1850s, this hatchet was given to my great-great-grandfather by some of the last Wyandots to live in these woods,” Thompson said, displaying the historical artifact.

Popular legend has it that the chief’s restless spirit is not happy about the location of a golf course near his ancestral hunting grounds across the river.

However, rain around the time of the Memorial Tournament may be nothing more than water over the dam. An examination of the data reveal that the period between the middle of May and early June is historically the rainiest time of the year in central Ohio.

Since 1976, measurable rain has fallen on six out of every 10 tournament days, perhaps more than you would expect by simple statistics. 

Yet the chances of getting through four consecutive days without rain in central Ohio at this time of year are probabilistically very slimmer, resulting in inevitable weather delays and the perpetuation of the folklore.

And then how do you explain our luck this year, with rain missing the Memorial Tournament, except for that light Thursday afternoon shower, in the midst of one of the wettest years on record? 

Perhaps the rain folklore, deeply entwined in the early history of the region, is really a way to teach us about early life in central Ohio along the banks of the Scioto River.,

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