Golfers tee up the pressure on the province to reopen courses

Golfers across Ontario have been left without a tee time for weeks as courses remain closed during the province-wide stay-at-home order.

"The physical activity that you can't get in the winter - for that to be taken away sucks for sure," said Nicholas Theodoropolous.

Theordoropolous is not alone.

A petition created last month urging the Ford government to revise the latest lockdown restrictions has garnered over 35,000 signatures.

Mark Kalbleisch was one of the petition creators and said the list of signatures would be sent to Premier Doug Ford.

"Everything little thing and every little action and the longer this goes on, the longer the embarrassment goes on for the Ontario government," Kalbleisch said.

According to Richard Edmonds, Tangle Creek Golf and Country Club president, and a member of the Central Ontario Chapter of the National Golf Course Owners Association, there were 20-million rounds of golf played in the province in 2020 and zero known COVID-19 cases.

Aside from that, Edmonds said the economic impact of the shutdown has been devastating.  "It's discouraging, to say the least, there're 800 properties in Ontario, and we employ hundreds of thousands of people. It's a livelihood for people who enjoy the game of golf," said Edmonds.

To handle the surge in COVID-19 cases, the province announced last month it would place restrictions on outdoor activities, such as weddings, funerals, religious services, tennis, and golf.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans said one of the reasons golf was included in the list of restrictions was not because of the sport itself but the socializing that comes with it.

"A lot of activities that occur outdoors which are safe are associated with activities indoors, and that's where the risk of transmission occurs," said Dr. Evans.

Meanwhile, the pressure from golfers and course owners to reopen the links is mounting. While there is no set timeline for courses to reopen, golfers hope their efforts will prompt the government to re-evaluate the game's place in the current lockdown.