Gordon on Golf

Coming together as a community

Coming Together as a community

I received an email from my golf club in central Ontario, promoting its “Mother’s Day at Home” family meal. Take-out only. I anticipate getting a similar email when Father’s Day rolls around in early June. U.S. Open Sunday, actually. But there won’t be a U.S. Open final round played that day.

June 3 would have marked the 16th playing of Mikey’s Tournament for Autism, a fund-raising event I co-founded, one that has raised $500,000 so far to support those affected by the disease in our region. We cancelled it for this year.

And I am fine with all that. I know this will be a polarizing stance. I’m fine with that, too. But with my wife and our two daughters on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, I understand, more than ever, that the term “safety first” has never been more applicable.

Like all golfers, I am champing at the bit to play. Golf has provided not just my recreation but my livelihood for 35 years. Believe me, I feel your pain.

But let’s look at the “gain” when all this “pain” finally winds down. To be clear, there will be no floodgates opening. Provincial and municipal health authorities will continue to make informed decisions in the best interest of public health. There will be a growing trickle of golf courses, allowing a restricted number of golfers at first. Some provinces starting the process with stringent safety measures in place.

Ryan Logan, Golf Canada’s Regional Director for Ontario, has been reaching out to facilities around the province like his counterparts across the country. While he says the “murky” scenario is frustrating, he is impressed by the determination of course operators to come out of this crisis better and stronger.

At London’s Sunningdale Golf and Country Club, General Manager Brad Adams and Head Professional Jason Wyatt have taken to social media to stay connected with their members along with sending regular e-newsletters. Like many other clubs across the country, they offer take-out meals and online pro shop sales with curbside pickup.

View this post on Instagram

Happy Monday Sunningdale Members, we just wanted to let you know we are thinking of you and are excited to see you when it’s safe to do so! Love, Your Staff 💕 #sunningdale #golf #ldnont #golfcourse #golfclub #golfswag #missyou

A post shared by Sunningdale Golf&Country Club (@sunningdalegcc) on

TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley and the Humeniuk Foundation went above and beyond in their support of efforts to combat COVID-19. On March 30, they donated $100,000 to Caledon Community Services and followed that with the announcement of a commitment to match contributions up to $50,000 to the Headwaters Health Care Foundation in the period April 13 through May 1. On April 30, the club donated $50,000 to William Osler Health System Foundation and $25,000 to the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.

Listowel Golf Club has even more to be proud of than being the home of PGA TOUR winner Corey Conners. Like many other clubs, they have not only served take-out meals for a while but recently started offering pre-packaged meat and produce parcels for pickup. The response has been “phenomenal,” says Director of Operations Brenden Parsons. After overcoming the “logistical nightmare” of creating order forms and ensuring safe handling protocols, anyone—not just club members—is welcome to order a grocery package for curbside pickup. As Parsons says, these initiatives not only provide an option for people who want to avoid going to the grocery store but keeps his staff employed.

In Atlantic Canada, Golf Canada Regional Director Jeff Hutt sees the industry bonding to ensure everyone comes through this pandemic more unified. Working shoulder to shoulder, as it were—figuratively, of course!

“There has been yeoman’s work done by all the associations to ensure we are aligned in our response and in our approach to reopening safely,” he says.

“That’s the key: safely.” At a recent meeting of the Atlantic Allied Golf Associations, it was emphasized that the industry must take responsibility for ensuring proper safeguards, much as the grocery industry has done.

The current situation across Western Canada is varied, as some courses in B.C. never closed while those in other provinces are gradually reopening. Golf Canada Regional Director Blair Armitage understands the frustration not only from province to province, but stemming from the different type of golf facility, from municipal to public to private.

COVID-19 sign

One bright spot he cites is when Vancouver Park Board closed their three courses but soon thereafter redeployed more than 15 golf course kitchen staff to start producing more than 2,000 meals per day for vulnerable residents in the Downtown East Side out of the Langara Golf Course kitchen. Twice a week, about 700 social housing residents get a hamper filled with meals that can easily be reheated, along with fresh fruit, dairy and snacks to last 3.5 days.

“It has been a wonderful, if somewhat overwhelming, challenge to part of this vital initiative to help feed the city’s most vulnerable residents during this crisis,” says Mark Halyk the Park Board’s Manager of Food and Beverage Operations.

The golf community has rallied together through uncertainty with industry collaboration—especially at the provincial level—on safety protocols and operational best practices to meet the guidelines of provincial health authorities in delivering a safe environment for golfers and facility staff.

In Quebec, the Industry Concertation Table (represented by Golf Québec, ACGQ, NGCOA, PGA Québec and ASGQ) has been working collaboratively to share information with the Quebec government. The group created a program on their social networks to talk about golf with Quebec golfers, including the show Une tasse de Tée with Max Lalonde. More than 8,500 people have been connected to each show on different platforms (Facebook and YouTube) with guests including Yohan Benson, Julien Trudeau, Chip Beck, Mike Weir, Brigitte Thibault, Lisa ”Longball”Vlooswyk, Sébastien Toutant, Daniel Melançon and Martin Cloutier.

temp fix empty alt images

“There is no doubt that Quebec golfers are very anxious to start playing golf again, and until then, we remain a responsible industry that will follow the recommendations of public safety,” said Patrick Rhéaume, Golf Canada’s Regional Director for Quebec.

In a message to golfers and member clubs, Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum outlined the association’s support of guidelines put forth by Health Canada, the World Health Organization and provincial public health experts.

“Golf Canada is committed to supporting the golf community through these challenges to the best of our ability. I am encouraged to see the resiliency of our industry—people and facilities engaging to share ideas and best practices, further professional development and provide levity and support for each other through this difficult period.”

“When we come out of this, golf will have a really important role,” says Logan. “Not just from a business perspective but from a social aspect. Golf will be reconnecting people.”