Golf in these times: Massachusetts
Second in a series of reports from across the country by PGATOUR.COM writers
March 24, 2020
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
- The Presidents Golf Course is located just south of Boston and offers dramatic views of the city skyline. (Jim McCabe/PGA TOUR)
QUINCY, Mass. -- You could have been misled by the solitude, especially with an unseasonably warm March sun pouring so much brilliance down upon it. But Presidents Golf Course – an oasis of comfort amid the fear and unsettledness that blankets our world – was empty Saturday and the punch to my gut was real.
GOLF IN THESE TIMES
• Arizona: Rob Bolton sets the scene from an Outlaw Tour event at Western Skies Golf Club
• California: Ben Everill plays historic Rancho Park just before city courses in Los Angeles are shut down
• North Carolina: Helen Ross reflects on memories of golf in her home state
• Florida: Mike McAllister plays a Mark McCumber-designed course at Marsh Creek Country Club
Just don’t think the quietness is an indictment of people shutting out golf. Rather, it is the noise inside Dana Smith’s pro shop – the constant ringing of the phone – that is a screaming testament to how much people want to embrace this magnificent game, how utterly true it is that we need golf to throw a blanket of unity on us.
Imagine, then, how much it pained the head golf professional at Presidents to hear caller after caller ask, “Are you open?” only to respond in agony: “No, we’re closed.”
Mind you, Smith is firmly committed to this decision, one that has been made by a multitude of golf course operators in the Greater Boston area and even on golf-happy Cape Cod. With Massachusetts officials having been proactive in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus – shut-downs and shut-in requests started a week ago – Smith and many others felt it is the safe and consistent thing to do.
Not that they don’t wrestle with their emotions.
“I get it. I think being outside, playing golf makes sense,” said Smith. “But everywhere you turn there are (potential risks) that hit you like a two-by-four. So …”
It’s quiet in my golf neighborhood, painfully so given that we’ve seen grass for months and haven’t touched a snow shovel for a deliriously great stretch of time. Temperatures reached 65 degrees Friday and after Presidents opened March 8, Smith saw a constant parade of smiling faces before play was shut down seven days later. Cheers to those who have golf 12 months a year, but oh, how the first rounds of spring golf at your local muni warm spirits like nothing else in parts of the country like Boston.
Presidents is where Francis Ouimet pulled off some magic in 1913. It was known as Wollaston Golf Club back then and the 20-year-old one-time caddie tossed down a tidy 69 to beat the heralded John Anderson in the semifinals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
In the 36-hole final, ol’ F.H. Hoyt never knew what hit him, as Ouimet, “driving on average 225 yards,” according to the Boston Globe account, delivered a 10 and 9 knockout. He was a local hero and a few months later, he crossed the street from his home in Brookline and set golf afire in the United States, beating Harry Vardon and Ted Ray to win the U.S. Open.
Yes, he’s the only player to win the Massachusetts Amateur and U.S. Open in the same summer (insert smiley emoji to reflect state pride here) and sure, the latter is what he’s known for. But every trip to Presidents – 18 holes jammed into about 90 acres – I’m reminded of the Ouimet footsteps we are blessed to walk in.
With that thought in the back of my mind, and with the temperature tickling 50 degrees, the urge to drive up to Presidents was impossible to resist. As I pulled onto the road into the facility, reality jumped in my face. The gate was down. Closed.
Then, a most wonderous sight. Three young boys lugging golf bags, meandered to an opening in the fence, ducked under a metal gate, and walked onto the quiet, deserted golf course.
Never did trespassing seem so appropriate and the decision was made – in no way would I betray their actions; instead, I would sit there quietly and revel in their passion.
Coming Wednesday: PGATOUR.COM’s Rob Bolton covers a mini-tour event in Arizona.The Presidents Golf Course features 5,745 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 70. (Courtesy of Presidents Golf Course)