Waskesiu Golf Course planning for new season during COVID-19 pandemic

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Waskesiu Golf Course head professional Andrew Hnatiuk and Danny Klughart pose with the Men’s Lobstick open and match play trophies that the Prince Albert golfer captured in June 2019. This year’s Men’s Lobstick tournament has been pushed back to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday’s snowfall may have put a slight snag into pre-season preparations at Waskesiu Golf Course.

However, things are going as planned for the 2020 season, which will have a different feel to it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been getting lots of information and assistance from the National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA) when it comes to COVID policy,” Waskesiu Golf Course general manager Tyler Baker said. “Some of us at the course moved up here early to isolate and we’ve been practicing social distancing while getting everything in ready, in addition to sanitizing any machine that we are working on while following the proper protocols.

“The last thing we want to have happen is to have an outbreak occur within Waskesiu, as it would spread quickly.”

The Government of Saskatchewan had previously announced on Thursday, April 23 that golf courses could open for operations on Friday, May 15 under physical distancing guidelines.

That date falls in line with what is traditionally the start of the season as Waskesiu, as they usually prepare to have everything ready to go around Victoria Day.

“We’re hoping to have our opening date in place by the end of the week and we’re asking that everyone follows the guidelines and protocols that have been put in place,” Baker said. “We’ll have traffic flow maps for the golf carts, which you can only have one person in unless you are from the same household, and once you are off the 18th green we are asking everyone to park their cart in the proper area, clean up their garbage and leave the course.

“We’re one of the first sports to open and all eyes are on us. We’d like to thank the Government and the Premier for recognizing that golf is a good sport to social distance and we want to set a good example for everyone. We don’t want to screw things up.”

What makes the Waskesiu situation different from other courses in the province is the fact that it is located in a Parks Canada facility.

“There was a really good teleconference discussion with the Prince Albert National Park on Thursday,” Baker said.

“Once the golf course is open, even though the Park is closed to visitor services, you will still have access through the Park to the course.”

Another change that the course has had to make is with the dates for their annual Lobstick tournaments.

While the Junior Men’s and Ladies’ events are still scheduled to be held in August, the Senior Men’s and Men’s Lobstick tournaments have both been moved back from their original June dates.

“When the guidelines came out and said that courses weren’t allowed to host tournaments, that not only affected those Lobstick tournaments but the commercial tournaments that we hold throughout the spring, which sees people come throughout outside of the province and even the United States,” Baker said. “We did lose some of those tournaments this spring, but we’re looking forward to welcoming them back in 2021.

“The Lobstick events have been a staple at our course for a long time and it means a lot to the golfers that come here year after year. We know how important it is for the people that come up here, but we want to make sure that everyone is safe.”

The Senior Men’s Lobstick is now scheduled to be held from Sept. 1-3, while the Men’s tournament will take place from Sept. 21-25.

“We’re still working through the logistics for both tournaments but it will certainly be a lot different, especially as we’ll have a smaller field for both events,” Baker said.

“If the weather ends up cooperating for us, it will be a really beautiful time of the year for both tournaments. That’s when the leaves start to change on the trees, the elk are in rutting season and you might see a bear or wolf walking around the course.”