Golfers itching to get out on Wisconsin courses, closed since March 24 by Gov. Tony Evers' "Safer At Home" order in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, are not likely to get the chance anytime soon.
Evers, speaking Friday on the Steve Scaffidi Show on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee, acknowledged the wishes of an outspoken Wisconsin golf community but indicated reopening golf courses is low on his list of priorities.
"I know that’s been a hot topic, which is interesting because we have kind of life-and-death situations going on where we’re making decisions," Evers told Scaffidi near the end of their 12-minute interview. "I’m not belittling the golf. All things people ask us to reconsider, we reconsider. We’re not at the point now to say that we’re going to open up golf courses.
"But we will continue to monitor the science on that. When it is time to do that, we will do that."
Evers was not asked about golf courses in Dunn and Trempealeau counties opening in spite of the governor's order. In those cases, local sheriffs and government leaders gave courses the OK to allow members and select others to play with specific restrictions, most notably that their clubhouses were to remain closed and transactions were to be done online.
"... these courses are going AGAINST what the Governor ordered, and using their local sheriff's office and County Health Office as the decision maker .... (which) DO NOT currently have power over the Governor's Order," the memo read. "Several State Reps have brought this to the attention of the Wisconsin Dept Of Justice which has stated that they will handle it by contacting these County Health Offices. So for now, that is up to the DOJ."
Later in the afternoon, the Trempealeau County Health Department – "due to conflicting guidance and the complaints we are receiving from our community" – issued an order closing golf courses that had been allowed to reopen.
"We will continue to work with our state government to attempt to get some allowance of use such as what we initially proposed," the memo added.
The GCOW board memo went on to encourage members to sign the Change.org "Let Wisconsin Golf" petition, which as of Friday afternoon had been signed by more than 65,000 people, and to write to their state representatives.
Do you think golf courses in Wisconsin should be able to stay open during Gov. Evers' safer-at-home order?
The governor's response to Scaffidi on the question about golf courses was consistent with those made earlier in the interview, when Evers said the state will proceed with caution regarding timelines for a return to "normalcy" when science experts deem it appropriate to do so.
"No one wants to get back to work more than me," Evers said. "I know the people of Wisconsin feel that frustration also. We need to make sure we’re slowing down the growth of the number of people that are infected. We’re starting to see that. (But) the curve, it’s still an upward trend.
"The last thing we want to do as a state – the very last thing – is make a mistake about when we move forward and bring things back to the normalcy we all want. The last thing we want is for you and me to be talking about this next fall because we did it too soon. We will continue to monitor that on a daily basis. As we are able to move things in a different direction, we will.
"But it’s not going to happen all at once. It’s going to be slow and purposeful. But we’re going to follow science; that’s what it’s all about."