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With courses closed by coronavirus, golfers, managers left to wonder how to run business and beat ‘cabin fever’

Although Monday’s rain scared away golfers at the Baltimore Classic Five golf courses, interim executive director Tom Pierce said that there had been plenty of busy days recently.

The word he was getting from golfers was that playing a round was their chance to get outside, exercise and relieve stress during an otherwise anxious time because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected 288 people in Maryland after 44 new cases were announced Monday.

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That all changed Monday when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses in the state — including all public and private golf courses — effective at 5 p.m. Monday to further slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We totally understand what the Governor is doing, totally support him and get it,” said Pierce, who oversees Carroll Park, Clifton Park, Forest Park, Mount Pleasant and Pine Ridge under the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation. “Of course, it’s something that we all hope the situation ends sooner rather than later — not saying when we’re closed, but the whole coronavirus altogether.”

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As for how it’s going to effect business, Pierce added: “That will probably be determined by the length of the time we are closed.”

At Rolling Road Golf Club in Catonsville, general manager Daniel Taylor and his staff also were in scramble mode, meeting to devise a plan moving forward just hours after Hogan made the announcement and minutes before closing up shop to meet the 5 p.m. mandate.

After a productive past week, capped by Friday’s 83-degree day that brought plenty of golfers that willingly followed the club’s measures to provide a safe environment, Taylor also couldn’t provide a ballpark figure on potential losses based on how quickly or slowly the crisis concludes.

The immediate concern for the private club, which has a membership roll exceeding 300, is being able to efficiently maintain the golf course while it’s in a holding pattern.

“The big thing we’re taking on right now is what does it take to maintain the course in a manner that once we re-open, we’re able to get right back to the quality conditions in the fastest amount of time while still saving money, squeezing the turnip so to speak,” he said.

In addition to revenue, membership losses are also a concern at Rolling Road and other private clubs if the pandemic stretches into the summer months.

For Ellicott City resident Jack Degele, the news that his 11:36 a.m. tee time Thursday at The Links of Challedon in Mount Airy is now quashed was a major disappointment, but he understands Hogan’s stance.

The 72-year-old, once-a-week-golfer, estimates that he has averaged between 50 and 60 rounds a year — playing for pleasure and business since he became a regular participant of the game a decade ago. The owner of Small Business Alliance, a commercial referral service based in Ellicott City, he often uses a day on the golf course to reach out to his clients.

“The good part about it is you get him away from his business, so you can relax and the phones aren’t ringing and people aren’t running in asking how to do something and you can focus on what his next moves may be. So we’ll discuss strategies in a relaxed manner,” Degele said.

“So it’s very disappointing. Of course, we’re in the middle of something that we never thought we would be in and we have to do what we have to do, but I sure hope it ends quickly because I look forward to playing golf.”

The same could be said for the many golf enthusiasts of all ages throughout the area, including Fulton resident John Yun.

He had been planning a golf outing this week with several friends to cure a case of "cabin fever" after being home all of last week with his wife and daughter.

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While he questioned the thoroughness of Gov. Hogan's decision, he understood that golf courses rank very low on the list of essential businesses.

"Golf can be a solitary sport, and human interaction can be limited," said Yun, a 49-year-old senior counsel at Stanley Black & Decker. "But I understand that some people are irresponsible, and so the state has to step in to reduce the chances of the spread. I understand that golf can seem silly in the midst of a pandemic, and so I don't have a major issue with the decision."

He acknowledged that finding something to break the boredom of practicing self-quarantine just got more difficult.

“This is tough,” he said. “I’ve been doing a little running, but there’s only so much running I can do. I’ve been riding bikes with my daughter and taking family walks, but that’s starting to get old. I’ll admit the cabin fever is starting to set in, and I’m not really sure what I’m going to do.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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