BOSTON, Mass – As far as the opening of Bay State golf courses before May 18 is concerned, a visit to the state house and the Governor’s office today resulted in some good news and bad news.
First, if you’ve tuned into the daily one-hour press conferences of Gov. Baker, you’ll notice the topic of golf never comes up, and when it does, he does his best imitation of Bill Belichick: his lips are moving but he’s not saying anything.
Today, he mentioned the word “golf” a grand total of one time. Nothing specific, the word somehow spilled out. He can’t keep dodging-and-weaving on such an important & vital economic issue.
Could’ve been a slip, but on Wednesday, he blurted out that “walking around on golf courses” is an activity he encourages. Again, no elaboration, and unfortunately no follow up questions from the media.
Let’s call it like it is: this Governor is tone -deaf when it comes to clarity of why golf he has been banned in the commonwealth since March 23. Where is Duval Patrick when you need him? Can we agree that “Good Time” Governor Bill Weld would never have banned golf, nor any 19th hole activities.
Baker is “Golf’s Grim Reaper”
If you’re counting, the golf ban has been in effect for 40 days and 40 nights.
The golf drought is worse for some who haven’t played since last fall, but as of today the re-open date is set for May 18.
For a guy that’s worked in state government for about 12 years, Mr. Baker has some reading to do before his next press conference. I left several golf-related documents which his trusty assistants guaranteed to give him (with a copy to the Lt. Gov) after the press conference. The material reminded him and Lt. Gov. Polito that the Massachusetts golf economy hovers around $2.7 billion each year. There are an estimated 25,000 golf-related jobs, about 400 golf facilities, 2 million rounds played annually and there’s about 200,000 who play the sport recreationally.
“Golfs’ Grim Reaper” was politely informed that effective Monday May 4, there will be 44 states that permit golf. Certainly Mr. Baker must know there’s no contact in golf, but he acts like it’s worse than sumo-wrestling. Watching him closely for the past five weeks, the man has stubbornly staked out an attitude that he knows better than 44 other state governors, who allow golf. And, that is the problem.
The Massachusetts golf community is a passionate congregation. Most golf pros have been out of work since last October and this unnecessary golf shutdown compounds their financial hardship. More importantly, some golf course owners are facing total financial ruin. This problem is caused by one selfish Governor, who is engaging in unprecedented government overreach, and who thinks he knows better than those in the golf business.
“Governor Baker and State House leaders do not have any reasonable justification to close down golf courses or many other recreational activities,” said Paul Craney, president of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a non-profit whose primary focus is to promote social welfare. “A temporary health crisis should not be justification for a long-term political power grab that results in the economic vandalism of our state economy.”
Craney, whose office is across the street from the state house added, “Its time the Governor comes to his senses and allow small businesses and workers to be able to safely open up. These business owners and their workers are essential and want to be part of the solution. Its time the Governor puts his trust into the people of Massachusetts.”
Today’s good news is that I personally delivered to the Governor’s team the Change.org petition titled” Please Let Massachusetts Golf” which has now climbed to over 36,000 signatures. The document, addressed to the Governor, politely requests reopening of golf courses within strict guidelines. It was started by Franklin Country Club member Joe Marin five weeks ago.
Golf Road Trip
The Governors of Rhode Island and Connecticut never closed their golf courses and starting May 1 Maine is open for golfe, despite a stay-at-home advisory until May 31. New Hampshire Governor John Sununu is reportedly preparing to make an announcement to allow golf next week.
Phil Corcell, a long-time member at George Wright Golf Course (Boston), said he has had enough of the golf ban nonsense. Last week he and three buddies went online to make tee times at Lake of Isles Golf Club (Foxwoods) in Stonington, Connecticut. The round trip from his home in Natick is 160 miles and he enjoyed every minute of his day on the links, shelling out $70 for golf and cart. He said the beverage cart girls were in full operation and no one felt unsafe at any time.
“All I want to do is play golf,” said the 48-year old mortgage broker. “I don’t need a clubhouse or 19th hole. Golf is not a contact sport and if it’s safe to play in 44 other states why not in Massachusetts? It’s ridiculous what this Governor is doing. I want the ability to play 9 or 18 holes locally and not put up with the misery of a golf lockdown.”
Massachusetts golfers have been swarming to Connecticut to play. Connecticut National, Twin Lakes and TPC River Highlands have parking lots filled with mostly Massachusetts license plates.
On a final note, I offered a few ideas to the Governor’s team including moving the date to open to Friday May 8 and asking the Governor to consider delegating the entire task of overseeing golf reopening to Lt. Gov. Polito. We can only hope he listens!
If Gov. Baker holds firm to a golf reopening date of May 18, it’s quite possible Massachusetts will be the last state to reopen its golf economy!