CORNWALL – “I guess this must be a big deal, huh?’’ said Dave Kline, Elizabethtown High School golf coach, looking around the driving range at Iron Valley Golf Club.
Several reporters and photographers were buzzing around. Trucks from two local TV stations were in the parking lot as players warmed up on the range for the season opener in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
Regular-season high school matches are not usually media feeding frenzies, but this one was the first event in the Lancaster-Lebanon League, and one of the first anywhere in the state, since the pandemic shut down high school sports in Pennsylvania in March.
Golf is first because it’s the sport affected by the pandemic least. Nobody blocks or tackles or sets a screen or collides at home plate. Most L-L teams won’t even begin practicing until next week.
Pa. Gov. Wolf ordered golf courses in the Commonwealth closed March 19, but allowed them to re-open May 1. The Lanco Golf Association and the Lancaster Country Junior Golf Tour, in which many L-L players compete, played nearly full tournament schedules this summer.
Golfers have been dealing with a new, masked and socially distanced normal for nearly four months.
“Mask On!!” was written on a whiteboard near the Iron Valley clubhouse, which also read, “Empty Your Own Trash!!”
On a door to the clubhouse, a smaller sign reminded golfers that masks are “politeness, not politics.’’
On the course, flagsticks go untouched. Balls in bunkers are allowed to be lifted and placed, so as to avoid the need for sand rakes.
Except for some mild social clustering around the scoring area after the round, and gentle reminders from coaches to stay spread out, the pandemic was barely a footnote.
“It’s pretty much the same as it’s been all summer,’’ said Solanco senior Logan Wagner, who will play in a junior tournament in Williamsburg, Va. this weekend.
“It’s not a problem.’’
Iron Valley was a problem. It’s a tough course in normal conditions, and 20 mile-per-hour winds made the golf difficult to put it mildly and brutal to put in bluntly.
There were horror stories, told mostly with rueful good humor. Solanco junior Andrew Teaman, his team’s no. 2 player behind Wagner, made a nine, an 11 and a 12 en route to a 102.
File it and move on.
“Yeah, … rough day,’’ said Teaman who shot 80 at Solanco’s home course, Tanglewood, just a couple days ago. “(Forgetting it) should be pretty easy to do.’’
Wagner shot 82, tied for the day’s best score with Alex Williams of Elizabethtown, who triple-bogied his last hole. It still looked like E-town’s day, though, until Garden Spot’s Zach Lessley trudged in from the final group on the course, after a windswept five-and-a-half hours of fun, with an 84, about what he shoots normally.
That gave the Spartans the victory over E-town, 362-365.
But the big news in Cornwall was the kids were playing games again. And not taking them for granted.
“It’s like I said to the guys before – it’s one match at a time,’’ Williams said. “We don’t know. The whole thing could be shut down tomorrow.’’