May 1, 2020
At the PGA Merchandise Show in January in Orlando, FL I joined a thousand media representatives and about 40,000 golf business folks from 80 countries to learn about new products and services. The results of my few dozen interviews over four days appear in this column as they do every year.
After the Show I drove to Tampa for the annual Golf Writers Association tournament, held this time at Innisbrook Resort. The three-day event was very pleasant. Our hosts, Salamander Hotels and Resorts, could not have been more accommodating as well as responsive to our questions about their upcoming PGA tournament, the Valspar Championship. The event was scheduled for March 16-22 at Innisbrook’s famous Copperhead Course, which our group played.
During the Show and the tournament the golf writers discussed the potential implications of the recent Wuhan virus outbreak.
When I flew home from Tampa Jan. 27, about a dozen fellow passengers wore masks. They were about ten per cent of the total on board. It was the first really jarring personal image involving this crisis, soon to be joined by others.
Four days later the Trump Administration imposed the first of several travel restrictions relating to the pandemic. The Valspar Championship was eventually cancelled along with most other professional sports events. Innisbrook Resort is closed for now and won’t take reservations until after May 20.
Since January we have read conflicting commentary about masks and other safety precautions. Folks on both sides of the aisle argued for and against a mask requirement for the general public.
On April 25, Governor Carney’s newest amendment to the State of Emergency Order ended the debate for Delawareans, coming down firmly on the side of wearing masks even in wide-open environments: “All individuals must wear a face covering … when they are in an outdoor public area, including state parks and golf courses, if maintaining social distancing of six (6) feet between individuals of different households is impracticable.”
The new Order went into effect April 28.
Based on recent experience, wearing a mask while swinging a club is an odd sensation at best.
On April 23 I met with Rookery South assistant golf pro Chris Osberg for a lesson at the practice range. It was his first lesson-giving experience since the pandemic restrictions went into effect. Osberg admitted he wasn’t sure how useful the lesson could be if he had to maintain the 6-foot separation under the new safety protocols.
I wasn’t either, but there were a few things to consider.
I needed help with driving into the heavy 2-club winds of this wet and stormy spring. I wanted to support the Rookery for remaining open for Cape Region golfers. And if it turned out to be a really stupid idea, it could be a funny story for the column.
It all turned out fine. As usual, Osberg was supportive, knowledgeable, and funny.
While remaining a safe distance away, he diagnosed what I was doing and provided useful advice on how to improve my swing in windy conditions. It helped that the wind came out of the south and into our faces during the lesson, recreating the conditions that gave me such trouble.
I started the session while wearing a mask, but it soon slipped down to my neck and remained there until we finished. On the other hand, no one should be within six feet of a golfer during any swing, pandemic or not.
Which brings me back to the new Order. The golf requirement is to wear the mask “if maintaining social distancing of six (6) feet between individuals … is impracticable.” When swinging or putting, that kind of spacing is completely practical, and by the way, much safer.
The Order also used an expansive definition of face coverings, “includ[ing], without limitation, scarves and bandanas.”
With that in mind, a scarf or bandanna that can be moved up to the face when actually necessary on the golf course or the range should work out just fine.
Osberg thought the lesson was a success and that he could give more lessons despite the new restrictions. For some golfers he might have to devise some way of showing them how to be in certain positions without touching them, but Osberg felt that was doable.
Good teachers are flexible.
Sorry about that
This was my second season as a volunteer coach for the Cape Henlopen High School Viking golf team. The recent announcement closing schools for rest of the academic year eliminated any lingering hopes for Cape’s spring sports teams.
When schools first shut down in mid-March we had just started practice. Head coach Rob Harrod, assistant coaches Bill Geppert and Mike McGinley, and I were enjoying the process of seeing what we could do to improve the kids’ games, when it all stopped before they had their first match.
I wish the graduating Viking golfers every success, and look forward to my third season of coaching next year.