Sunday, March 15, 2020

Golf in the time of a pandemic

My partner, Betty Ligon (left) and me, checking in at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, SC, for the Carolinas Cup, the month before COVID-19 put the lid on our golf competition.
With the the LPGA and PGA seasons suspended and The Masters postponed, my prospects for kicking back and watching the pros fire those stunning approach shots at the pin has dropped to zero.  The PLAYERS, the ANA Inspiration - unthinkably postponed or cancelled.

I'm bereft. No Drive, Chip, Putt national championship this year, at least not this spring. Maybe the junior golfers who represent the future of the game, those kids who thrill me with their grit, determination, athleticism will have their moment of glory later this spring (or summer), but for the moment their personal journeys to Augusta National's hallowed ground are suspended.

The young women who've been honing and sharpening their games and dreaming of the personal glory waiting to be collected when the last putt drops at the 2nd Augusta National Women's Amateur have been put into a state of suspended animation.

And the list of cancellations continues down the chain - to the regional and state levels. The spring events that mark the beginning of my personal golf season, the events I routinely enter, have been cancelled.

I won't enjoy the renewal of golf course friendships, I won't enjoy the warm familiarity of returning to a course I played last year, and the year before, remembering the hole I birdied, determined to avoid the 3-putt that brought me to my knees. 

But even as the pros sit on the sidelines, even as the spring events that mark the beginning of my own golf season are cancelled, my own game goes on.  The sun is shining. The grass is beginning to grow and I've played several rounds in shorts and shirt sleeves. Golf hasn't ended for me. At least not yet.

I've implemented a protocol that keeps me on the course, enjoying the game and the women in my local LGA. I'm fortunate in that my home course is taking the current health threat seriously. Carts are routinely being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

And I'm doing my part to stay healthy as are the others with whom I routinely play golf. We're wiping down our golf carts before and after we use them and we've taken some simple steps to establish and maintain healthy social distance from each other.

We're not picking up each others' clubs as we leave the green and we're not hugging each other when we finish our round. I suffer from seasonal allergies so I'm coughing and sneezing my way through the beginning or spring, on and off the golf course. But now I'm getting out of the cart and away from the rest of my foursome before I sneeze and cough. Whether or not my droplets are contaminated isn't the point. Who wants to take that risk?

I'm washing and disinfecting my clubs, balls, tees, ball marker and divot repair tool at the end of each round. It was an easy routine to implement.

I designated a container of disinfectant wipes for golf club use only, and I wipe my grips at the end of the round. It's not a big thing, but if I'm willing to clean my club heads at the end of my round, why wouldn't I also be willing to disinfect the grips?

I put a small dish on the kitchen counter, right beside the sink. When I get home I empty my pockets into the dish, and then I wash everything that was in my pocket, including the change I collected from Bingo, Bango, Bungo. That means, of course, that I've also washed my hands!

Will these behavior modifications work? Will I protect myself from COVID-19? Only time will tell. But it's worth noting I'm playing golf without fear or worry, confident that I've done what I can do to ensure my personal health and the health of my playing partners.

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