High school boys golf teams in Colorado have been told they can tee up for practice beginning Aug. 3.
That is the regular start date for the season in a normal year. Still, the rest of the fall sports season is still awaiting the fate of a decision by state officials after the Colorado High School Activities Association previously submitted a plan to resume fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. No decision has yet been made.
According to Ryan Casey of CHSAANow.com, boys golf was not included in those submitted plans because golf is able to play under the current guidelines that state has allowed for outdoor activities
“Aug. 3 is the date I’ve got, so that’s our plan for today,” said Durango High School golf coach Kirk Rawles. “Which means it will probably change by Monday and again Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. But that’s the date we’ve gotten from CHSAA, so that’s what we are going to prepare to do.”
Some school districts are not allowing school sponsored activities while students continue distance learning from home online. Joe Fries, the head coach of Basalt High School golf, said students will continue off-campus learning until Sept. 21, and he does not anticipate the Longhorns beginning golf Aug. 3. He said more decisions will be made this week.
Coaches and teams will have to follow a list of health protocols when the season does begin. Rawles’ biggest concern is travel and overnight trips. Typically, the Demons take advantage of a road trip and will play two tournaments in two days during stops in Fruita, Grand Junction and Montrose.
“I don’t know if we can manage it or if we are going to need parent participation in some of that,” Rawles said. “For golf, we narrow it down to the five best players to take on trips. We don’t have a lot of people to deal with, but our past travel has put four kids in a room together. That, obviously, will not happen. So, it’s a combination of protocols to follow to keep everybody safe and healthy while managing budgets on additional rooms.”
Rawles said there are tournaments the Demons could play starting Aug. 6. For now, his first planned tournament is Aug. 10 in Fruita. He hopes to play again later that week with two tournaments in Montrose.
The boys golf season is fast and furious with the state tournament the first week of October. This year, the Class 4A state championship tournament will be held at the Air Force Academy. A location for Durango’s regional tournament has not yet been set.
Golf was the first sport to resume during the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, Hillcrest Golf Club and Dalton Ranch opened in early April with health protocols in place to ensure social distancing on the course. Holes also were modified so players don’t have to take the flag out or reach their hand into the cup to retrieve their ball after a made putt.
Those protocols have worked, and golf courses have been busy this summer. Rawles believes course guidelines paired with those from CHSAA and the school district will make it possible for a fall golf season to be held, though he still imagines some bumps along the way.
“The New Mexico fall golf season has been pushed to the spring, so we would typically go down there for a couple of events for easy single-day trips. Now, we won’t get those,” Rawles said. “We do have single-day trips planned for Pagosa Springs and Cortez, and we plan to host a two-day tournament at Dalton Ranch and Hillcrest in September.
“I’ve talked with Jim Foltz, the golf coach up at Fort Lewis College, and we are talking about creating some competition up at Hillcrest for our two teams. He’s got a lot of freshmen, and I’ve got some well-seasoned upperclassmen who are competitive. We could have some fun, healthy competition with that to stay sharp.”
Rawles typically embraces having a large roster of players come out for golf, but he said that could make practices difficult this year with the distancing and crowd guidelines in place. One other worry is that if other fall sports such as football, soccer and cross-country are postponed until the spring, it could lead to even more students joining golf this year.
“I’m excited but also concerned kind of wondering how to deal with it,” he said. “I could end up with an exorbitant number of athletes playing golf. Therein lies a manageability issue.”