INNISFAIL – Taking advantage of the mostly marvelous late winter and early spring weather conditions, the Innisfail Golf Club is set to open earlier than usual on April 16.
The club will do so with a new head professional.
Mathew MacDonald, who was born and raised in Olds and is no stranger to the links at Innisfail, takes over from Jim Boomer, the widely respected local head pro who served in that capacity for 34 years. Boomer has now moved over to corporate sales for the Innisfail Golf Club.
The 30-year-old golf professional went to Lethbridge College in 2009 to take the Professional Golf Management Program. Over his early golfing years, he has worked in the pro shops at the Innisfail and Olds golf clubs.
In 2016 he joined the Henderson Lake Golf Club in Lethbridge as its associate golf professional. And now he is back in Innisfail.
“He is definitely the kind of guy you always felt would be the perfect guy to be part of a succession plan here. It is really good to have a guy of his calibre involved,” said Boomer. “I really think we are going to make some progress with everything that has gone on here. It will definitely be a better club with him involved.”
MacDonald expressed gratitude for Boomer, proudly noting the Innisfail golf legend gave him his start in the industry in 2009, and then worked a full season under his guidance at the Innisfail Golf Club in 2015.
In his inaugural season in Innisfail, he faces the ongoing challenges of the year-long COVID-19 pandemic. But he and the local golfing community have already got their first break, thanks to the weather. With the exception of a couple recent late March days, it has been gloriously mild.
“Some years we don’t get started until the first week of May but generally it’s between (April) 25th and 28th and 29th of April from what I am told,” said MacDonald.
“We originally hoped for a tentative April 9 opening date. We are glad we waited,” he added. “The tarps were obviously able to protect the greens from the nasty weather we got during the last two days.”
As far as COVID goes, a health inspector was at the golf club on March 26 to inquire about this season’s pandemic protocols, said MacDonald, adding at this time the club is allowed to keep normal tee times.
“Things towards the end of last year opened up quite a bit, and restrictions relaxed a bit and they said we can run with those same restrictions for now," he said. “We just have to be cautious about gatherings, and making sure protocols are being followed in the restaurant and social distancing is being maintained throughout the golf course.”
He said key COVID guidelines call for not allowing more than four people in the pro shop at any one time, guests maintaining social distancing of six feet while out on the golf course, and every power cart cleaned and sanitized after every use.
At the beginning of the 2020 season, it was mandatory that all guests ride power carts by themselves unless living in the same household. That was relaxed toward the end of the season and guests were given the choice that if they arrived with another guest they could ride together.
“We are going to stick with that choice for the time being,” said MacDonald.
As for tournaments for the 2021 season, they will go ahead but with one restriction - no shotgun events.
“That is just simply because that would violate the Alberta government’s policy of having a gathering of more than 50 people outside,” he said, noting all tournaments will be based on tee times.
“It’s the same kind of policy where we are asking players to show up only a half hour prior to their tee time.”
With all this worked out in advance, and with most if not all golfers fully aware of the COVID guidelines, he notes there is plenty of enthusiasm among diehard golfer to get back on the links.
“We’ve been getting a ton of calls, actually. We’ve had a number of people trying to book tee times already,” he said. “The demand has been crazy. We’ve probably fielded close to 15 to 20 phone calls a day.”
For more information on the 2021 season at the Innisfail Golf Club visit the website at www.innisfailgolf.ca