FARMINGTON HILLS – The Golf Association of Michigan has launched a safety-first version of its tournament schedule, GAM Golf Day events and course rating services.
Chris Whitten, executive director of the GAM, said the tournament staff has researched and determined best-practices in dealing with golf during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re fortunate that golf is open throughout the state,” he said. “Now that golf carts are available and most pro shops are operating, our host facilities are ready to welcome our players back. Golf is an outdoor activity that naturally lends itself to social distancing, and we feel we can make tournament play very safe following government guidelines and executive orders. We’ve followed other golf associations around the country and reached out for information from a national allied body of golf which includes the USGA to help us do this. We plan to adjust as we learn more and move forward.”
Ken Hartmann, GAM senior director of competitions and USGA services, said tournaments will be conducted with safety as a paramount concern.
“We understand some people are still not comfortable with playing in a tournament right now, so we are working with tournament entry deadlines where we can,” Hartmann said. “People should contact us with concerns. We want them to play and feel safe.”
The various GAM championships, starting with the June 1-4 GAM Senior Match Play Championship at Gull Lake View Resort’s Stoatin Brae course, will be conducted with social distancing practices in place, single-tee starts, cart restrictions calling for single riders, digital (cell/smart phone) technology scoring to eliminate the use of shared scorecards and other safety precautions like pre-packaged food instead of traditional buffets and clubhouse gatherings.
“We’re asking everybody to download the free Golf Genius App so we don’t have to hand scorecards in or pass them around for verification, and we are not going to set up traditional scoreboards for the time being to keep crowds from gathering,” Hartmann said. “It’s going to take some help from the golfers, and our staff is going to do all it can to help people with questions or concerns or issues with scoring and Golf Genius.”
Hartmann said the staff is working to get golfers into tournaments and qualifiers, and that accommodations and adjustments will be made when possible. A 100-percent refund policy is currently in place for those uncomfortable with playing during the pandemic.
Tournament players and Golf Day participants are asked to update their player information profiles at gam.org with their cell phone numbers and email addresses. Tournament information, updates, scoring links, rain delay information, etc., will be issued via text and email communication.
“We simply can’t do things the way we have done them in the past right now and have a crowd around the scoreboard or a buffet enjoying the social part of our championships,” Hartmann said. “We can still have great championships though – with everybody communicating and working together.”
Accommodations are being worked out with tournament host sites based on the recommended health practices and the service practices underway at the sites regarding locker room access, water, refreshments, food service and practice area uses.
Just one GAM championship has been cancelled – the Michigan Women’s Senior Match Play Championship. A handful of tournaments, qualifiers and GAM Golf Days have been rescheduled. Only a few events, like the Fuller Cup Matches and GAM vs. GAO Senior Matches, are yet to be determined. Golfers are urged to check for tournament updates at GAM.org.
Whitten said tournament staff and officials and volunteers, which most years includes over 200 people through the season, are being asked to be part of online tournament orientation sessions to prepare for the new practices.
“The priority is safety and we have approached it that way from the start,” he said. “We will have our championships. They are just going to look a little different.”
Kyle Wolfe, GAM director of handicap, course rating and junior golf, said course ratings will be done for clubs that have made changes requiring a new rating, as well as those on a 10-year cycle for being rerated.
“We are taking the safety of our volunteers doing the rating and the employees at the golf courses into consideration first,” Wolfe said. “We want courses to know we may not get to all the courses this summer because we are getting a late start on it, and because we are going to take care of our volunteers who do our ratings. It’s just going to be a different year; a shorter season and we ask everybody to be patient with our process.”
Ted Newton, GAM tournament director, said GAM Golf Days will be altered on a site-by-site basis based on participation numbers and course policies.
“There may be situations where we ask for volunteers to walk instead of ride golf carts, and we will transition to single-tee starts instead of the usual shotgun starts we use at Golf Days for the interim,” he said. “Just like the tournaments, we will be doing digital scoring.”
INFORMATION: Available at GAM.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Greg Johnson, GAM media specialist, 616-560-8995, firstname.lastname@example.org