CORNWALL — “I guess this must be a big deal, huh?” Elizabethtown High School golf coach Dave Kline quipped while looking around the driving range at Iron Valley Golf Club.
Several reporters and photographers were buzzing around the course Thursday. Trucks from two local TV stations were in the parking lot, too, as players warmed up on the range for the season opener in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
Regular-season high school golf 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 COVID-19 pandemic shut down Pennsylvania high school sports in March.
Golf — traditionally the first fall sport to open live competition anyway — got the opening nod in this very unusual season because it’s the sport affected least by the pandemic.
Nobody blocks or tackles or sets a screen or collides at home plate. Meanwhile, the other L-L teams won’t even begin practicing until next week.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered golf courses in the Commonwealth closed March 19, but allowed them to reopen 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. (It 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 seemed 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, Virginia, this weekend.
“It’s not a problem.”
Iron Valley, however, was a problem golfwise on Thursday. It’s a tough course in normal conditions, and 20 mph winds made play difficult to put it mildly and brutal to put it bluntly.
There were some 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.
But ... 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 the Bears’ 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 Elizabethtown, 362-365.
But the big news in Cornwall was that 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.”