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Golf season delayed by COVID-19 closures

Thunder Bay golf courses will be maintained until they are allowed to open.
The view from the fifth tee box at Dragon Hills Golf Course (Tbnewswatch file)

THUNDER BAY — City golfers contemplating a visit to their favourite course in the coming weeks will have to keep their golf bags in the garage.

Golf courses are included in the province's mandatory closure of non-esssential workplaces aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

On Monday, the government also ordered the closure of all outdoor recreational facilities.

Some critics have argued that golf courses have enough space to allow people to participate safely while getting fresh air and exercise.

Former PGA Tour player Ian Leggatt, now Director of Golf at a Toronto-area course, disagrees.

"No one knows more about needing golf as an outlet than me, but save a life and stay away," Leggatt said in a recent tweet.

At Thunder Bay's Dragon Hills Golf Course & Driving Range on Onion Lake Rd., owner Mike Komar said he agrees with the province's efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"If we can't open, obviously we won't...having everybody distance each other is only going to be good for everybody," Komar said.

At the same time, he believes golfing could be done safely if precautions were taken.

"Obviously we can't have everybody in the clubhouse, and we can't have tournaments...but they should be able to walk the course and play," Komar said in an interview Wednesday. 

"You're not going to be within six feet of one another anyway," he said.

Komar said golf carts could be limited to one person, to maintain social distancing.

Regardless of what happens, he's working to prepare the golf course and keep it in shape for whenever he's allowed to let players tee off.

In the meantime, he said, "I'll have a private golf course for me and two other guys. We'll be able to golf by ourselves."

Emerald Greens owner Jack Watson has also started getting his Dawson Road course ready for an undetermined opening date.

"We'll just hold steady and hopefully things turn around and we can get open as soon as possible," Watson said.

He said he'd like to see the government come up with a plan for golf courses.

"I think it would be good recreation for people in this situation in less than groups of five," Watson added. "People have to get out of the house eventually. It's too long to be cooped up."

However, he said most golfers seem understanding of the situation for now, even if they are "chomping at the bit" to hit the links by early May.

The City of Thunder Bay operates two golf courses, Chapples and Strathcona.

Although it's only bringing essential workers into its workplaces now, Cory Halvorsen –Manager of Parks and Open Spaces–  said the city will ensure necessary maintenance is done on its golf courses for as long as necessary.

"Any start-of-year activities that we need to do to make sure the greens are in proper condition....and as we get into the growing season that will include grass-cutting as well," Halvorsen said.

He noted that provincial restrictions related to COVID-19 are changing daily.

"We want to be ready to move forward. Right now our number one focus is making sure we take care of the essential maintenance, and we have enough staff to do that. Any considerations for operating would follow the provincial orders, and the required staffing would follow that."

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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