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Golf courses experiencing uptick in rounds because of virus outbreak

Jim Matteucci, left, and his two sons James, 8, and Ashton, 5, enjoy putting at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course on Monday. ‘The golf course is a great place to be enjoying the fresh air and not being close to too many people,’ said the elder Matteucci. The youngsters were on an extended school break due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

What’s there to do when there are no live sports on TV, no local sporting events in town? Head to the golf course, of course.

Apparently, that’s what many in Albuquerque are doing because of all the preventive measures stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The municipal courses, Arroyo del Oso, Ladera and Los Altos, have been packed with plenty of players coming through during the weekend and on Monday, each of their pros said.

Golf courses at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors have also been heavily booked for rounds. And, that goes the same for Sandia Golf Club and Paradise Hills Golf Course.

“We saw an exceptional uptick in play this past weekend compared to last year for the same weekend in March at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors,” said Derek Gutierrez, PGA Director of Golf/General Manager of Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc. “Hopefully people feel comfortable and safe at a golf course, just being out on the green grass and in the sun. With the cancellation of most youth sports in town and very little sports on TV, that had to be the reason for the increase of play.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Sunday night that for the next 8 weeks large events and mass gatherings that consist of 50 or more people should be canceled or postponed throughout the U.S.

Many golfers are showing up to the courses, yet they are spread out, the local pros said. Also, each of the courses are sanitizing golf carts, the steering wheels, and other touching points.

Social distance has become a key phrase for Americans who venture to shop for groceries or attempt normal activity and must maintain some space from others.

“Golf may be the one saving grace for everyone in these times,” said Dana Lehner, executive director of the PGA Sun Country Section and the Sun Country Amateur Golf Association. “Golf may be at the forefront for people to get some activity in and remain safe.”

The municipal courses were suffering from a downturn in golf rounds in 2018 and much of 2019, the Journal reported in June. The increase in play recently has been welcomed, the local pros said.

Casey Coontz, Arroyo del Oso’s pro, said the sunny days and warm temperatures over the weekend also helped with the increase in golf rounds at Arroyo.

“You feel like the golf course is one of the safer plaecs to be, not at a grocery store,” Coontz said. “We are seldomly this busy on a Monday. With quite a few people not having to work and many places shut down we have seen a lot more people come out. The separation at the golf course is pretty good because it’s fairly wide open.”

Ladera and Los Altos were also very busy on Monday, Ladera’s pro Bill Harvey and Los Altos’ pro Colby Reddoch said. The weekend was busier than it usually is at Ladera, Harvey said, yet the cafe has been empty.

At Paradise Hills Golf Course, its popular bar and grill, The Office, remains open with restrictions that involve seating areas and groups limited to six, said Paradise Hills pro Gerome Espinoza.

“We’re busy on Mondays, but we were really busy this Monday,” Espinoza said of the golf rounds at Paradise Hills.

Sandia Golf Club has been “packed for the last week and a half and it has not slowed down,” said Wes Dahl, assistant golf pro at Sandia.

Events and tournaments have been postponed or canceled at various courses.

Paradise Hills had a golf tournament that included Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in three weeks, but that was axed and moved to a later date, Espinoza said.

Sun Country is in its fourth year of the Shootout in the Desert for high school competition. The event is scheduled for April 13 at Canyon Club. Lehner said Sun Country will wait to hear from the NMAA if there is a need to postpone.

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