JANESVILLE

For the most part, it was business as usual Friday at Riverside Golf Course—at least golf-wise.

Errant shots, missed putts and playful banter returned to Riverside and the rest of the state’s public and private courses.

Under orders from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, courses were allowed to open Friday but with several restrictions. No one seemed to mind.

Pam Wells and Lori Wetzel were the first two to tee off at Riverside. Playing the back nine, they finished nine holes in a crisp 1 hour, 10 minutes.

“It’s great to be out, but it’s different,” Wells said. “There are no ball washers, no water. And I usually take a cart, but there are no carts allowed.

“But we’re willing to make those sacrifices to get out and play.”

Like all courses in the state, Riverside made several modifications on the course to adhere with Evers’ guidelines. Every cup on the greens had a sleeve in it so that golf balls would stay on top and could be retrieved with a putter. The clubhouse, driving and putting range were closed, and scorecards were not available.

“Things are limited, obviously, like with walking only, but we’re excited to have people out here,” Riverside general manager Miles Tucker said. “We’re just trying to make sure to tell people of the requirements when they tee off and how important social distancing is.

“People have been waiting a month to get back out here and play, and we’ve got a full schedule of tee times.”

Wells and Wetzel seemed to be in midseason form. The back nine at Riverside is not an easy walk, especially with big hills to climb on Nos. 10 and 14. They finished in a little over an hour, which means not much time was spent looking for wayward balls.

Wetzel echoed the thoughts of what so many others in the state were feeling Friday: It was simply good to be out.

“I think more than anything, I feel safer here than I do at a grocery store,” Wetzel said. “You can play and be safe, and the course is set up to help you with that.

“And the game itself hasn’t changed. It’s still golf.”

On a typical weekday in April, 11-year-old Austin Schumacher would have attended school and afterward gone off to a baseball practice or game.

But he and his stepfather, McNeil Lunenburg, are adapting to a new normal and welcomed golf into the mix Friday.

“We’d usually be trying to fit golf in in between (baseball schedules),” Lunenburg said as the two walked up the hill on the par-3 fourth hole at Janesville’s Blackhawk Golf Course a little after 10 a.m. “But they’re not playing baseball right now, so we’re trying to fill that time and get out of the house.”

Lunenburg, Schumacher and family have been adjusting to online school and working from home while passing time hitting baseballs into a backyard net and organizing online Zoom game nights.

So on the first day that courses reopened, their nine-hole round was a welcomed reprieve.

“We’re having fun,” Schumacher said. “He just told me we were going to start going Mondays and Fridays.”

The two have set up tee times online for those days through the next several weeks, Lunenburg said.

A quick mid-morning survey of the Blackhawk landscape showed about one group of 2-3 golfers per hole at a given moment. Austin was not the only youngster walking the fairways. The group ahead of him had two kids that appeared to be about his age.

“That’s good,” Lunenburg said. “Hopefully people will have patience for the kids who want to come out and play.”

Golf is back—and hopefully, here to stay.

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