Though Wally Wrona and his buddies never exactly found themselves lacking for a chance to tee it up while golf operations were held in check by COVID-19 concerns, the return of Men’s Day to The Villages still held meaning.
“It’s a tournament,” said the Village Santo Domingo resident, part of Tuesday’s final Men’s Day tee time at Glenview Champions Country Club.
“You get more of a mentality that it’s a tournament. When you’re just playing with the guys, you’re playing with the guys. But this is a little more competitive. We are all happy to be back.”
More than 120 golfers came out to one of three sites to enjoy the Men’s Day revival, divided among three of The Villages’ championship courses. Lopez Legacy and Mallory Hill also were on the schedule, with Mallory Hill attracting the biggest signup.
“We had a lot of really happy golfers glad to be back on the course and getting after it,” said Dan Machande, Mallory Hill’s head PGA professional. “It was a great day to get people on the golf course and competing again.”
Mallory Hill accounted for about half of Tuesday’s total, with 67 participants. “A little less than normal,” Machande said, “but it was a pretty good first day back.”
Today marks the return of Ladies’ Day, set for Mallory Hill and Tierra del Sol with a 9-hole version taking place at Hacienda Hills.
This week marks the first men’s and ladies’ days since spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a series of operational changes around The Villages golf. Among them: Cancellation of all events that would find golfers gathering together in wider groups.
“I was wondering when it was coming back,” said John Putz, a Village of Springdale resident who took part at Lopez. “I was kind of disappointed when it cut off in March. For half a year we didn’t get to play.”
Tom Boyle, a Village of Santiago resident playing Glenview, noted Men’s Day was a standing part of his week — “except for the last five months.”
Even now, the traditional gathering around the scoreboard after rounds is discouraged. Golfers were to leave their scorecards in a plastic bin for later tabulation. Results are posted online when complete, or golfers could return to the club for a look at the board.
Golfers also were sent off in tee times instead of the usual shotgun start.
“I think everybody was pretty understanding throughout (the layoff),” Machande said. “We looked into what we could do safely to get them back out there. We met their needs to play golf while providing a safe way of doing it.”
That doesn’t mean golfers didn’t miss the weekly gathering. At both Glenview and Lopez, golfers noted they had banded together with other regulars to keep the Men’s Day custom going informally.
“What was it, 29 times we went out?” said Dale Anderson, a Lopez regular who lives in the Village of Calumet Grove. “So you could say we didn’t really miss a Men’s Day. It was just an impromptu group; a bunch of us getting together.”
Tom Edwards was credited with organizing a group of about two dozen at Lopez, or sometimes elsewhere if the tee times system couldn’t accommodate their block. At Glenview the role was taken by Jim Kipp, who was pleased to relinquish the duties.
“We really want to see everyone get back out here,” the Village of Caroline resident said. “Out here, you get to meet more people.”
It’s a sentiment also voiced by Bob Glaser, who teed off in the group ahead of Kipp and Wrona.
“I’m glad it’s back,” said Glaser, who lives in the Village of Bonnybrook. “It’s an opportunity to play with new people. It’s not just golf; it’s social. If I just want to play golf, I can come out anytime and walk and carry. But this is a group where you get to meet new people.”
Senior writer Jeff Shain can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5283, or firstname.lastname@example.org.