365体育投注Tadd Usher was hoping Headwaters Golf Club would get the OK to open for play on May 4 at the earliest.
The general manager of the Park Rapids golf course received some unexpected good news two weeks ahead of that date.
On Friday April 17, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order allowing golf courses in Minnesota to open starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday, April 18. That was more than two weeks ahead of the original target date of May 4 for golf courses in the state to start taking tee times.
Beginning on March 17, Gov. Walz ordered that all non-essential businesses had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That executive order included golf courses. During a news conference on April 8, Gov. Walz extended his stay-at-home order from April 15 to May 4. However, the order was modified to allow maintenance workers at golf courses to go from being considered non-essential workers to being added to the list of essential employees. That meant crews at golf courses could begin getting their courses ready for play once the order was lifted.
That anticipated order was issued on April 17 and was just what Usher was hoping to hear.
365体育投注“Honestly, I was in utter shock. I thought there was no way we would be open before May 4. I didn’t even think that would happen. I was thinking we wouldn’t be open until the first part of June,” said Usher. “It’s pretty amazing to be open. It was pretty amazing news.”
365体育投注With only one day to get ready, Usher and his maintenance crew had to work all day Friday to get the course ready for play Saturday morning.
“We didn’t have much notice, so we had to scramble a little,” said Usher. “We worked pretty late Friday night getting everything ready and trying to figure out the proper protocols to follow. The grounds crew knocked it out of the park. We were ready to rock on Saturday.”
Being able to return to work on April 8 helped the maintenance crew get ready for the opener. That crew began preparing the course for the season in early March, but had to halt operations later that month. When the crew was deemed essential workers, work on the course continued with the maintenance staff checking equipment, watering the course, cutting down dead trees, cleaning up the course, and getting the fairways, greens and tee boxes ready for play.
365体育投注“We were a little behind. We started working the first part of March, but the governor declared golf courses a non-essential business and we had to shut down. When the governor changed his mind, that was huge. We were able to get back to work and get things ready,” Usher said. “The course came through the winter perfectly. The greens are in good condition and the fairways and tee boxes came through the winter well. We have some snow on the course, but we’re ready to open. Typically our opening date is around April 20. Last year we opened on April 21. Keith (Mueller) and his crew always do an excellent job getting the course ready. The golf course is in excellent condition.”
365体育投注Usher said that OK came the day before the course would have opened under normal circumstances. In addition to golf courses, shooting ranges were also given the OK to open, joining walking, running, biking, hiking and fishing as outdoor activities allowed under the stay-at-home order.
365体育投注“It’s important for us to stay active and enjoy the outdoors while preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Walz said in a statement on April 17. “This measure will allow Minnesotans to take advantage of more opportunities to get outside, while still doing their part to keep their neighbors healthy.”
“It was really frustrating not knowing when we could open. We wait all winter for spring so we can get out and golf,” said Usher. “Golf is a stress reliever and is a good form of exercise. People are bored. Our members were anxious to get out here. They just wanted to get out and golf.”
365体育投注However, there are still restrictions in place, such as continuing to practice social distancing guidelines by staying six feet apart from each other and not traveling long distances to play golf in other areas of the state. Other restrictions include closed clubhouses and pro shops with greens fees being paid either online or over the phone, limiting the number of people allowed on the course, spacing out tee times and limiting each cart to one person (two golfers from the same household can ride on the same cart). Other safety measures include modified cups so the ball doesn’t drop into the hole to prevent golfers from touching flagsticks, removal of bunker rakes and not allowing golfers to use ball washers. Golfers are urged to call an hour before their tee time to speed up registration and are also expected to arrive close to their tee times and leave the course as soon as their rounds are complete to prevent social gathering.
365体育投注“Everyone did a good job of social distancing,” said Usher. “Everyone was smiling. They were just happy to be playing the game they love. They were all excited to be out of the house and actually doing something outside.”
The opening of Headwaters Golf Club was welcome news to area golfers. Usher said he wasn’t sure how many golfers to expect over the weekend with the chilly temperatures. However, 36 golfers hit the course on Saturday with another 25 teeing it up on Sunday (April 19).
365体育投注“I was really unsure how many people to expect. We have our die-hard golfers, but a lot of people are still leery of COVID-19,” said Usher. “If the weather would have been better, we would have had more people. The weather is supposed to be nice on Wednesday and Thursday, so I’m expecting bigger crowds.”
Even though the course is officially open, Headwaters Golf Club could lose several big events, starting with high school tournaments at the end of May. Headwaters Golf Club was scheduled to host the Section 8AA South meet, the Section 8AAA tournament and the Section 8A tournament. Those high school tournaments are still scheduled, but will be canceled if schools remain closed forcing the Minnesota State High School League to call off the spring sports season. The annual Two Man Best Ball/Scramble is also still scheduled for June, but that event could be changed since the executive order doesn’t allow tournaments, team events or events that will attract a crowd. Usher is also hoping the Women’s League on Tuesday and the Men’s League on Thursday can be held this summer.
365体育投注“I’m worried about our tournament schedule. They’re still planned, but everything is still up in the air,” said Usher. “If the MSHSL cancels the season, that will hurt (financially). We might have to postpone the Best Ball/Scramble until late July or August. Hopefully the governor will allow large groups soon. If not, it could be a tough summer, but we’re going to battle through this year like every other business.”
365体育投注In the meantime, Usher is enjoying seeing golfers back on the course.
365体育投注“It’s so good to be open and to see people out here,” said Usher. “It’s a huge game changer just to be open. We’re getting more phone calls, people are buying memberships and snow birds who were planning to stay longer are coming back. It’s going to be an interesting year, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m excited to see us turning the corner (with the pandemic). I think we’re going to be OK.”