Golf and Covid-19: how UNF’s men’s golf team is continuing to hit the links

John Watson, News Director

Raised cups, the absence of flagsticks and invisible tee-box markers have become the new norm for people looking to play a few holes of golf. As courses remain open during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UNF men’s golf team has experienced the ups and downs of the current situation.

When the ASUN conference announced the spring athletics season would not resume play in early March, the men’s golf team had just come off a sixth place performance at the General Hackler Championship when they heard the news. 

“Surprised,” UNF men’s golf head coach Scott Schroeder said about the team’s reaction to the sudden cancellation. “We all knew there was something not good going on, but to cancel some of our stuff that was two months away… that fast, was surprising.”

For many other sports, the cancellation of organized competitive activity means the closure of most facilities and fields. Luckily for golf, the game is essentially the player versus the course with limited physical contact with other players. 

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued his stay-at-home order in early April, golf was to be considered an essential recreation activity provided proper social distancing.

Most golf courses have removed flagsticks and tee-box markers as limited staff work behind-the-scenes. Most cups are now located in the center of the putting green, and some cups have even been raised. When a golfer hits the raised cup, the ball is considered “holed” and play resumes even though the ball isn’t actually in the hole.

 

A maintenance worker is seen moving hole locations on the putting green prior to the Covid-19 pandemic  U.S. Air Force photo by Don Lindsey

While following local guidelines, Schroeder says his team is capitalizing on the unique opportunity.

“I’d probably say half of our guys… if not more, are actively playing golf,” Schroeder said. “Golf is one of the few activities that people have been allowed to continue.”

Osprey senior golfer Michael Mattiace has spent his last four years helping his team to multiple ASUN championships. Now, with the unexpected offseason, he looks to new opportunities and utilizing the free time that he has.

“I am enjoying a little bit of time off,” Mattiace said. “Making it out to the golf course maybe once a week… twice a week, not really practicing but just going out and playing.”

After graduating on May 1 with a Business Management degree, Mattiace will be returning to UNF for a fifth year. Due to an NCAA announcement to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring sports athletes, Mattiace will be able to compete on the collegiate level once again.

“My number one decision of coming back is that I want to give the guys another chance at a national championship,” Mattiace said.

As for playing, Mattiace says that one feature on the regulated courses stands out from the rest.

“I love the raised cups,” Mattiace said. “I know that they do inflate your score because you’re banging into the cup and if it hits the cup, it counts as going in. I played with the raised cups once, and I think I shot 8-under… we had a great time and knew to probably shave 3 (strokes) off of that.”

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