Golf First Sport To Return Amid Coronavirus

Golf First Sport To Return Amid Coronavirus

Golf returned in slightly altered fashion as the North Olympic Peninsula’s seven courses reopened for play Tuesday after a 45-day closure to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus.

And the golfers returned in pairs and singles, thankful for the opportunity to scratch the itch.

“Everybody is pumped to be here and play the course,” Port Ludlow head pro and general manager Tyler Sweet said. “I’m finding that everybody is a little nicer now. They are appreciative of our efforts to open the course and very thankful for the opportunity to play.”

Foursomes are limited to those who live in the same household for now, so players will have to adjust to greater demand for tee times in the short term.

“The twosomes thing is a little different, but everyone was just so excited to get back out on the course,” Peninsula Golf Club head pro Chad Wagner said. “And we know revisions will be made or at least discussed each week, so we are hopeful we can get back to the normal foursome atmosphere soon.”

As for demand, Sweet said his course’s tee sheets were nearing capacity.

“We are completely full today and Friday and Saturday are getting close to being full already,” Sweet said.

“With the twosomes, there just aren’t as many open spots available.”

Sweet said his course is sending players off the first tee every seven minutes and players at Peninsula and the Cedars at Dungeness will tee off with eight minutes between groups.

“We have a starter on the first tee going through the guidelines, and outside services worker watching the driving range and cleaning and disinfecting the carts and a course marshal to keep players moving and keeping the gaps up between groups,” Sweet said.

“And we have our assistant pro Adam Barrows back working as well. It’s pretty cool and I am excited to be back out there.”

Wagner said Peninsula would see about 75 players hit the course Tuesday and is expecting a full tee sheet this weekend.

“Today we have seen a lot more member play,” Wagner said around noon Tuesday. “They’ve been cooped up and today was the first time they could get out at their facility.

“I’m sure Saturday will be busy, it’s already starting to fill out. I had about 40 voicemails to return when I walked in the door this morning.”

And courses took the time away to take care of annual maintenance issues such as aerifiying the greens. Wagner even worked with Cedars director of golf and general manager Bill Shea and Cedars head pro Garrett Smithson at the Sequim course.

Shea and the Cedars oversee the Peninsula pro shop operation with Wagner.

“We punched our greens and started a few projects,” Wagner said. “There weren’t too many of us working and we turned into a little maintenance crew. Bill, Garrett, and I punched the greens there. We just did what we were told, [Cedars course superintendent] Mike Snyder was in charge.

Sweet said Port Ludlow’s greens were aerified in March, but the course was cared for during the time away.

“Keep up operations and mowing,” Sweet said. “We did get the greens verticut [vertically mowed].”

The goal of vertical mowing of greens is to thin the turf canopy while maintaining a proper balance of leaf growth and turf density.

“It’s kind of like when you go get a hair cut and they use those clippers to get the big clumps,” Sweet said. This thins out the grass blades and makes the greens healthier.”

Golf never really went away during the closure — it didn’t take much effort to spot scofflaws swinging freely from fairways if you took a drive-by certain area courses. But the sport can be played safely outdoors, particularly if courses strictly follow the guidelines set by Gov. Jay Inslee’s office.

Golf will be the first pro sport to return in America, with some exhibitions set later this month, including a competition to raise funds for charity between Tiger Woods and partner Peyton Manning and Phil Mickleson and partner Tom Brady. Details on the time and date have yet to be released.

Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Matthew Wolff also will play in a charity skins match on NBC at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 17. That match will be played at Seminole Golf Club, a Donald Ross design that is legendary in golf circles.

And the PGA Tour is planning to resume June 11 at the Colonial in Texas.

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