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GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans discusses coronavirus pandemic and Washington, D.C., efforts

By |  April 1, 2020 0 Comments

Golfdom caught up with GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans late last week. The topic, naturally, was how the GCSAA and the industry moves forward during the constantly changing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re working to get language out there that will allow us to keep maintenance facilities up and running despite the state mandates,” Evans says. “Golf maintenance is a very unique industry. It’s a specialty crop. You have to water it, you have to take care of it. We’re not asking that golf courses stay open for play.”

On that note, Evans says he believes golf is unique in that it is safe to play during the pandemic.

“You can play golf in a safe way. You can be separated over 150 acres,” he says. “But every time I turn around, something changes.”

Evans says the association’s partnership with its allies in the game of golf have all become vitally important during the pandemic.

“We have our lobbyist in Washington, D.C., we’re working with We Are Golf, the PGA Tour … what’s coming from Washington is being written at a lightning-fast pace, and we’re going through it trying to make sure golf is not left out,” Evans says. “We’re being vigilant about that. The health of people, the supplies we need, that’s obviously first. We’re further down the line. But we want to make sure golf is treated fairly.”

Evans says most of the staff at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., are working from home. In the meantime, the two departments that were on the biggest scramble were the government affairs team and the GCSAA field staff.

“The field staff are gathering intel. We rely on them for gathering information from our members,” he said. “We just did a video conference call. We’re going to push a lot of information out to the chapters soon.”

The GCSAA scheduled a COVID-19 webinar for today at 1 p.m., limited to the first 500 attendees.

When asked if GCSAA might have specific recommendations on how to keep courses safe, Evans said they’re relying on the Center for Disease Control for information.

“The general practices issues by the CDC, that’s what we’re employing,” he said. “It’s not foolproof … we have to rely on our members to take caution. At the end of the day, they have a job to get done and they have to protect that asset. There’s a balance between the two.”

Evans says that GCSAA has ceased all committee meetings and put Rounds 4 Research on hold. He also says they’re in a holding pattern on how long anything will be postponed until there’s a better understanding of how the Coronavirus will sweep the nation.

“This is certainly going to push things to the third and fourth quarter, but by then, hopefully we’re back up and going,” Evans says. “At that point, we’ll look at the golf economy and how far courses have fallen back. It’s going to be a short golf season for a lot of states. We’re in for a wild ride. The situation we’re in, this crisis, then the ensuing economic fallout … no one knows what to expect. But we want golf to move forward. Right now, golf courses have a great opportunity because you can apply the CDC standards, social distancing, and be in nature, clear your mind. It’s imperative we do that for our own mental health. And if golf courses aren’t allowed to stay open? Then allow the superintendents and their staffs to continue working to fulfill their jobs and maintain those 150 acres.”

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