The governor’s decision to make masks mandatory as of last Friday in all public spaces, including golf courses, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has puzzled many golfers.
“I think it’s stupid,” said John Gully, 60, of Worcester before he teed off on Friday at Green Hill Municipal Golf Course. “I don’t think we need to do it out here. You’re out in the fresh air. Everybody who’s golfing stays six feet apart. I think it’s ridiculous.”
Gully said his mask made him feel like a surgeon, and he wished he got paid like one.
“I’m going to dissect this course,” he joked.
Nevertheless, Gully wore his cloth mask for all 18 holes on Friday. Bruce Chansky, 72, of Worcester, however, wore a mask for the beginning of his round on Friday, but soon dropped it down to his chin and took it off after a few holes.
Chansky said he wasn’t used to wearing a mask while playing golf, and he had trouble adjusting to wearing one while walking the many hills of Green Hill.
“I haven’t worn it all year,” Chansky said. “I’m very protective of myself and who I’m around, and after walking a while, my breathing became inhibited, and it made it very uncomfortable, and there’s no reason why you have to wear it on the golf course.”
Chansky said it would be easier to wear a mask while riding a cart than walking.
“I don’t believe that the state should mandate,” Chansky said. “They should suggest, but not mandate. We’re still in a free society.”
Some golfers wore masks at Green Hill on Friday, but many took them off during their rounds with the temperature reaching into the 70s on an unusually warm November day.
I wore a mask when I played Green Hill on Friday, and it took some time to get used to it. I hadn’t worn a mask while golfing since I wrote a story about doing so in May.
I found myself focusing on the mask instead of the ball, and I hit some poor shots before I finally adjusted. The poor shots continued, but because of my inability, not the mask.
Herb Donahue, 64, of Rutland believes masks should be optional, not required.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Donahue said. “You’re out in the open. Most of the time you’re not next to each other, and it makes it hard to breathe when you walk, but I’m wearing it.”
Ron Lohnes, 70, of Worcester isn’t a fan of the mask rule, either.
“I think it’s a little bit of overkill,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really necessary, but I will wear one. I think if we’re outdoors, we can stay away from each other. I just don’t think there’s a real risk of getting COVID playing golf.”
Kevin Tivnan, 71, of Princeton often plays with Lohnes at Green Hill, but he has no problem with the governor’s mask order.
“I’m pro mask, big time,” he said. “We could have been out of this thing months ago if people just smartened up and wore masks. It’s going to be tough playing golf with it, but, hey, whatever gets us through this thing, I’m for it. I’m sick of this (pandemic).”
Adam Giardino, 31, of Worcester wore a UConn mask while he played Green Hill on Thursday, the day before masks were mandated. He said he wore one all summer and fall during his weekly round.
“I don’t think it’s an inconvenience,” he said. “If I’m standing over the ball, I might pull it down below my nose when I’m not near anybody so it doesn’t fog up my sunglasses, but otherwise, I don’t see in the issue in having to wear it.”
Giardino said he believes everyone should wear a mask.
“If it’s the one thing that we can do to prevent unknowingly passing the COVID along to other people, I’m all for it,” he said.
Even before masks where mandated, Chris Phelan, 31, of Westboro wore a paper one when he golfed with people he didn’t know and he had no problem with the governor requiring them.
“I think it’s fine,” he said. “I doesn’t really hurt and it can potentially help.”
Green Hill head golf pro Matt Moison said rangers wouldn’t drive around the course checking for masks, but that the staff would ask people before they tee off to wear them and respect their fellow golfers. A sign on the first tee reads: “New Order Per Governor Baker, Masks are Mandatory in All Public Spaces.”
Moison said as far as he knew the governor’s mask order lacks a penalty for offenders.
“This order, as I see it,” he said, “relies on the good judgment of people to do the right thing. We will ask our golfers to do the right thing. We’re going to publish it, post it, talk to people. When people are not doing it, we’ll be kind to them, but we will also talk to them about it.”
Moison said he sees no reason why people shouldn’t be allowed to golf during the pandemic.
“I think that any time you can be outside right now as long as you can, it’s a good thing,” he said. “I’m partial to golf as an activity for that because it’s what we do here, but I think any activity you can do outside, whether you want to go for a hike, kayak, a bike ride, or a walk, stay outside as long as you can this year and do your best.”
Masters at finish
Watching the Masters in November is going to be weird for just about everyone next weekend, but it’s going to be even stranger for me.
For the first time, the Masters will be played on my birthday next Saturday. In the past, the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins have played on my birthday. There have been plenty of high school and college football games. But the Masters, which was postponed from April until November by the pandemic, has never been contested on my big day. I plan to watch as much of it as I can when I’m not busy blowing out the candles on my birthday cake.
Many golfers are looking forward to watching it. Usually, the Masters signals the beginning of the golf season for people who play in New England. This year, it will likely mark the end.
“It’s different,” Lohnes said, “but I think it’s good because there’s not a lot going on right now. It will give us something to watch. It should be interesting to see how Tiger (Woods) does, if he’s got anything left.”
“I don’t know if it’s going to be as green as it normally is,” Tivnan said, “or how beautiful with all the azaleas. But I’m going to watch it. I think the country needs it because everybody is depressed. I know I am, anyway. People need that stuff, especially the Masters. I love the Masters. It’s highly competitive. They have all the best golfers.”
“This is unprecedented,” Giardino said, “but just getting it in in 2020 I think is a good thing. It’s going to look different on TV, the azaleas won’t be in full bloom, but golf fans and sports fans everywhere have gotten used to watching events that have just looked a little different than what we’re used to. So I don’t think it will be too out of the ordinary from a viewer’s perspective. They just won’t talk about the $2 pimento sandwiches as much, I guess.”
Moison said the Masters is one of the few golf tournaments he usually watches, but he wishes it was canceled this year, not rescheduled for seven months later.
“I will not probably watch it,” he said. “I have zero interest in it. It just feels out of place to me.
“I’m not upset by it, but I’m indifferent towards it, and I think that indifference is related to the fact that everything is shut down and getting worse. So why go down that road?”
Donahue is happy that the Masters was rescheduled for this month, and he’d like another big event to change dates as well.
“I think we should have the (presidential) election in April instead of the Masters so we can get the results in by November,” he joked.
—Contact Bill Doyle at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@BillDoyle15.