The Golf Association of Philadelphiaclose_icon

President’s Letter: Summer 2020

Love in the Time of Corona

Fans of world literature will immediately notice that I have stolen my title from the 1985 classic “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Márquez. This great work by Márquez, while widely praised, falls short of being a masterpiece because golf is not mentioned on any of its more than 400 pages. Yet despite that significant shortcoming, there is a theme from “Love in the Time of Cholera”that is worth considering for all of us.

The theme is that nothing ever turns out the way you thought it would, but dedication and perseverance will always see you through. Did any of us expect to be playing with hole inserts, “rakeless” bunkers, zero scorecards and single rider carts? In most cases, we welcomed these changes if only because it signaled that courses that had been closed altogether had finally reopened. The big learning for me, however, was that golf, unlike nearly any other sport, can be adapted to nearly any circumstance. While I’m not enamored with the idea of reviving the origins of the game by hitting a rock with a branch, I am reminded that golf, in its purest form, is the golfer against the golf course. We don’t need spectators or complex infrastructure. The game is played in the beauty of spacious outdoor settings. Social distancing? I have practiced that on the course for decades, as my ball yanked into the trees on the left was always 50 or 60 yards from my playing partners. None of us expected golf to be played as it has been played during the spring of 2020, but it has worked just fine. In the process, we respected our community’s health and safety guidelines and guidance and escaped from house arrest.

At GAP, we never expected a calamity that would threaten our entire tournament schedule, which includes five events that have been contested for more than 100 years. Nonetheless, we committed to continuing to offer a full program of competitions, but only when the integrity and quality of each tournament could be maintained while ensuring the health and safety of our members and competitors as the paramount objective. The dedication of our staff and the cooperation of our competitors have allowed us to continue to offer outstanding competitions beginning with this year’s fabulous BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Lancaster Country Club, won by Zach Barbin.

Also unexpected was the growth of the game during the pandemic. When courses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were ordered closed in April, many feared a Doomsday scenario with clubs going bankrupt and people abandoning golf altogether. I know of no one who anticipated what has transpired in May and June. Golf has exploded throughout GAP. Public course tee sheets are booked weeks in advance, private courses are so busy that most have prohibited or limited guest play so that space was available for member play. Courses are seeing the number of rounds increase by 60, 70 or even 90 percent on a year-to-year basis. Clubs are receiving more inquiries and applications for golf membership than in past years. As my old friends from growing up in Georgia would say, “Who would’ve thunk it?” The game is not simply growing. People who played golf rarely are returning to the course with a rekindled interest. People who never considered playing the game are taking up golf with energy and enthusiasm. The surge in golf throughout GAP is expected to continue throughout 2020. I am cautiously optimistic that this could be the rebirth of the U.S. game’s broad popularity that characterized the late 1890s and early 1900s.

There are certainly tough times ahead, and all of us would have preferred COVID-19 to have been a really bad dream rather than reality. But the game of golf is helping us to demonstrate our resilience and make it through this pandemic with some semblance of normalcy. And that is why we love the game of golf in a time of corona(virus).