Wisconsin golfers petition Evers to open up play

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - From High Cliff to Royal St. Patrick's, all over the area, and all over the state, golf courses were preparing to open.

"It's very impactful," said High Cliff PGA Professional Corey Feller. "From our standpoint we were getting ready to open the course and we could have opened the course for play yesterday. It was ready to go. We mowed the greens. We are getting the tee boxes ready today. It was ready to go."

"The way the spring had been, it looked like we were going to be open late March or early April," said Royal St. Patrick's PGA Professional Nick Stephens. "We were excited to get after it. Today is not the perfect day, but within the next week or so we are going to want to play some gold and we may not be able to do that it looks like."

But now, Wisconsin courses have all been closed amidst 'Safer At Home' pandemic procedures. But many in the industry believe golf is the perfect outdoor leisure activity to engage in while social distancing.

"Golf is the perfect pandemic sport," Feller said. "You can play with your family. You can stay away from people. It's not unlike walking around the park or walking around your house. It is great exercise. There are 550,000-600,000 golfers in this state. Emotionally just think of what golf could do for people, getting them out of their house."

"You use your individual ball," said High Cliff owner Luniak. "Whereas in basketball, baseball, and other sports you are using the same ball and contaminating each other."

"Before that last order we really thought that golf was going to be something that could be done as an escape, with people spread out," Stephens said. "We were sort of excited about the opportunity, thinking that this was something along with walking and trails, that would actually work."

"There are a lot of good ideas out there," Feller said of creating distance within the game. "Putting a foam swim noodle in the bottom of the cup, so the ball rolls in and stays on the top. Some people are pulling the cups an inch out of the hole so that when you hit the hole you are done playing. We can put just one person in a golf cart and have sanitizer ordered for the golf carts. We won't be letting anybody in the pro shop, everything would be done with a credit card. There would be very limited exposure to people with people to other people when they come out to the golf course."

Across the state, more than 20,000 people have signed a Change.org petition, asking Governor Evers to amend his order to allow golf. As of Thursday, Wisconsin remained as 1 of only 6 state not allowing golf during shutdowns.

"Hopefully we can get the government to change their minds," Feller said. "Obviously in Illinois, when they came out with their stay safe at home program, they did ban golf originally, but they have since changed their minds and now do allow golf."

Of course many industries are suffering during these uncertain times, but the golf business is particularly vulnerable. This is the time of year that Wisconsin courses get up and running, incurring costs to do so. They often offset those costs with membership dues coming in, but none of that is happening right now.

"The start up time of the golf season is probably one of our most expensive times," Luniak said. "Obviously over the wintertime in Wisconsin our check book gets pretty low and we need than influx of money at the start to buy fertilizer and all the things that we need to get this up and running."