Golfers across Massachusetts were hoping Wednesday — National Golf Day — might be when Gov. Charlie Baker gave them something to look forward to as the coronavirus pandemic continues its stranglehold over the state, country and world.
Outside of Gillette Stadium following the swearing-in of the newest class of State Police Academy graduates, Baker appeared unconvinced about changing his mind as Massachusetts is the only state not to have a date set to reopen courses. Maryland and Vermont both announced Wednesday that courses in those states can open Thursday while New Hampshire previously announced courses will reopen Monday to in-state residents and club members.
“Some folks came in and did talk to the advisory board,” Baker said. “I think that was a good meeting, and we’ve been talking to our colleagues around the northeast region about what their policies and practices are and are incorporating that into our decision-making as well.”
The Alliance of Massachusetts Golf Organizations met with the reopening advisory board co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on Saturday. Among the people on that call was Wachusett Country Club and Kettle Brook Golf Club co-owner and director of golf Nick Marrone, representing the New England chapter of the National Golf Course Owners Association.
Despite both sides publicly having positive comments following the meeting, Cara Cullen, a co-owner and general manager of both courses and the sister of Marrone, told Fox News and the Daily Caller on Monday that they intended to open before May 18, the expiration date for the governor’s executive order that closed all non-essential businesses. Attempts to reach anyone at Wachusett CC or Kettle Brook GC in Paxton were unsuccessful.
Wachusett CC and Cullen had Facebook posts on May 1 that showed Marrone using a lift that attaches to the flagstick to lift the ball out of the hole. He reminded viewers that National Golf Day was on Wednesday and said he looked forward to seeing them soon.
Players were able to make tee times for Wednesday but were on social media Tuesday night saying those times had been canceled by the club. Both courses sent out emails Wednesday evening saying they will be opening for the season on Friday with a link to their online booking system and noting they will use many of the social distancing guidelines that are being used throughout the country.
“Let’s hope and anticipate that people don’t start breaking the law,” Baker said about a potential challenge. “That would be a bad thing.”
The state’s golf industry is not keen on someone going rogue, either. There is a fear that rattling the cage too much is only going to lead the governor to dig in his heels even more.
“I think there was a collective communication that we all shared on behalf of the industry,” said Mass Golf executive director Jesse Menachem. “We strongly encouraged facility operators to continue to abide by the executive order, and that it was not going to help the progress and process we’ve made and really would be sending the wrong message.
“I have not heard directly from the family on it, but it seems to me that any tee times that were booked for today were canceled.”
Jennifer O’Connor, co-owner of Holly Ridge Golf Club in Sandwich, was on the conference call as well representing NEGCOA.
“I am very concerned about that,” she said whether she was worried a rouge attempt to open would sink the plan for all the courses. “We all need to be on the same page and united and do this the right way. … I do hope everyone continues to listen and stays closed and wait for some positive news coming out of the governor’s office.”