Apr 28, 2021
Meetings between government, lobby group give Ontario golfers hope
Ontario remains the only jurisdiction in North America where the government has not allowed golf courses to open, but that may be about to change.
By Bob Weeks
Several sources confirmed to TSN that We Are Golf, a lobby group of the game’s stakeholders, met with officials from Premier Doug Ford’s office on Tuesday. Ford was not involved in the meeting personally.
On Wednesday, the same group was set to meet with representatives from the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.
It’s not known what was discussed or what the outcome was but according to one person with knowledge of the discussions, “The fact that we are being heard is a good sign, I’d say.”
On April 16, the provincial government shut golf courses, tennis courts and playgrounds responding to a continued increase in daily case counts of COVID. It quickly backtracked on playgrounds after an outcry from the public but golf courses and tennis courts remained off-limits.
The government has stated that it brought in the measures as a way of limiting mobility. It wants residents to stay at home as much as possible.
Ford has been under pressure to reconsider his decision, with mayors, doctors, scientists and even PGA and LPGA tour professionals calling for golf to be played.
After her win on the LPGA on Saturday, Brooke Henderson was asked by an American journalist if she hoped the courses would open soon in her home province.
“I think golf is a great way to be outdoors and get some exercise, and it’s really unfortunate that they’re shut down right now,” said Henderson, who is from Smiths Falls, Ont. “Hopefully they’ll open up sooner than later. It’s a great way to, like I said, get exercise, fresh air, and also have a little bit of social by doing it pretty safely.”
The decision to close golf courses seems to fly in the face of advice provided to the provincial government by its own advisors.
The Ontario’s Science Table, created to provide information for the province’s response to COVID, said in a report that "social connections and outdoor activity are important to our overall physical and mental health" and that means "clearly encouraging safe outdoor activities."
Golf would seem to be the perfect activity to provide just that. Many doctors and scientists have stated that the risk of catching COVID while playing golf is extremely minimal.
"Nobody is getting this infection golfing,” said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and scientist, in an interview on Golf Talk Canada radio.
On Saturday, the Bridges at Tillsonburg, a course in southwestern Ontario, became the first to defy the order and opened for play. It has yet to receive any punishment and its tee sheet remains full.
Meanwhile, social media is filled with rumours about re-opening dates, none of which seem to cite any reliable sources, as golfers become anxious to return to the links. Last year, despite a late start, there were record rounds played.
In addition to a good recreational outlet, golf is big business in Ontario. An economic impact study released last year showed golf contributed $6.5 billion to the province’s GDP and provided more than 85,000 jobs.