Or perhaps the number six, as in six-feet social distancing, was more appropriate for the start of the Lima Junior Golf Association (LJGA) season that began with the Eagles Aerie #370 Open held Thursday at Tamarac Golf Club.
Ninety-two young linksters hit the fairways and greens at the first event of the year that has 14 tournaments slated spread over six counties.
Mike Harmon, LJGA tournament director, said the biggest thing getting ready for this season was waiting for the word that they would be cleared to play.
“We always have our dates set the year before so that is kind of set in stone and we are always scrambling for sponsors at the last minute but for the most part for us it was to see whether or not we would be able to do it,” Harmon said.
Harmon added getting this many to come out was a great number.
“Usually the first ones of the year are not as well attended because everybody is getting into the swing of summer but this year golf is on everybody’s radar because everything else has been canceled,” Harmon said. “A lot of these kids played right through quarantine and I think it kept them sane. There was not a lot of places they could go and do something.”
Because of the coronavirus each course has a separate set of rules and regulations concerning the pandemic and the LJGA has posted on its website a general outline that needed to be followed for the participants.
Harmon, who patrolled the course throughout the day, said they are making sure the golfers are following the guidelines.
“In general every course has their own set of precautions so we are trying to fit in whatever they are doing,” Harmon said. “As far as our end we have put out some extra rules this year like having some of them show up a little later so they don’t congregate and then we encourage them to leave. You see the empty clubhouse behind us.”
The LJGA posted its own guidelines on its website.
Primarily, the six-foot social distancing would be enforced and flag stick rules and holing procedures vary on what each course is doing at the time of the tournament. Players are not to be shuttled or ride in any carts during their rounds and the competitors are not to shake hands before or after the completion of the round.
Upon completion of the round, players are instructed to move to the scoring area and will not trade or sign each other’s scorecards while agreeing on scores. Scores will be verbally reported to the tournament staff and verbally attested to by the players.
Players must leave at the completion of the rounds and after their scores have been reported.
Rules were also in place for spectators who were limited to one to two per golfer. Fans should not congregate in any area and are not allowed in the practice area.
Zach Miller, who golfs at Allen East, was happy to be out competing on the hot and humid day.
“It is the first time for me to play in a tournament, and it was nice to get out here,” Miller said. “The front nine wasn’t too good but on the back I pulled it together to get a decent round.”
Miller, who said he has been practicing on his own for the most part, added that it was good to be around fellow golfers. He admits it was tough to always maintain the six-foot rule but said most did their best to adhere to the guidelines.
“We tried,” Miller said. “It didn’t always happen but some of us were right beside each other on our ball marks and it wasn’t six feet.”
Harmon said that he also watched what other groups around the state were doing to pick up some tips in order to keep all the golfers safe.
“Everybody seems to get it,” Harmon said. “They’ve all been doing it for two months. Normally they would be trading scorecards, and they are not trading scorecards and now they are just reporting the scores to us. Just a few small changes like that.”
Harmon said he expects to get the rest of the season in barring any more mandates from the state.