Josh Whalen among first to tee off as Napanee Golf and Country Club re-opens

Josh Whalen prepares to tee-off on the first hole of the Napanee Golf and Country Club. The club was open to members on Saturday and is now open to everyone. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Golfers could be forgiven if their shots sliced a little to the left or they missed an easy putt this week-the important thing is they were back on the links.

Napanee Golf and Country Club was one of several to open this week after the Ontario government gave them the green light as they slowly lift COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. NGCC welcomed its first golfers on Saturday-limiting the soft opening to members only.

Like all courses across Ontario, NGCC had just a few days’ notice ahead of the long weekend that they would be allowed to open to the public. Fortunately the local club was ready thanks to the work of Paul Wilson and crew.

Tee times filled up quickly, with the first shot of the season taking place just after 6 a.m. Groups of four continued to roll through steadily throughout the day. Among those to shoot a round on opening day was course record holder and PGA Tour Canada member Josh Whalen.

The Napanee native was in Florida when COVID-19 made its way to North America. He played his last round of golf March 21 prior to the shutdown.

“Pretty well a full two months, which for me is the longest that I haven’t played since probably high school,” Whalen said of the last time he was on a course before Saturday. “(The round wasn’t) very good, it was like I had been in my house for two months not playing any golf. But it was good to get out. Anyone that I ran into there was just happy to be playing, out of the house. We’re fortunate that we’re able to be out there playing. It’s good for anyone’s physical health and mental health as well.”

Whalen was nearing the start of his season before everything was put on lock down.

“I was just starting to get into that because my game wasn’t quite ready after being home for a few months at Christmas,” he said. “I had a fairly busy March planned playing tournaments down there and then I was coming back mid-April and was heading out to BC to play the qualifier Q School for the Mackenzie Tour, which is the Canadian Tour.”

Now it’s a waiting game.

“At the moment they’ve postponed everything,” said Whalen. “They haven’t cancelled anything yet, but they’ve been updating us how things are going. I think the best case is kind of half a season, start in maybe July, but that’s all depending on the border.”

In the meantime he’ll look to stay sharp by playing rounds at the NGCC and perhaps play some tournaments in Ontario and Quebec this summer if it’s deemed safe to do so.

On Tuesday NCGG was open to non-members, with some limitations.

In keeping with provincial guidelines, there are only two people allowed in the pro shop at a time. A staff member will be controlling the flow of traffic onto the premises. All play will be with the flag ticks in. There will be no rakes for any of the sand traps on the course. Instead golfers must lift the ball, use their foot to rake and then place their ball back on the ground. Though the social aspect has always been a big part of golf, for now a round of golf will end with a tip of the cap instead of the customary handshake.

Club activities such as men’s, ladies and mixed have also been postponed for now.

This year was quite possibly the latest in a season the NGCC had opened in its history, which stretches back to 1897. Typically the first round of golf is played in early April.

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