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Costa Mesa golf courses reopen for play

Golfer Eddie Rodriguez, 30, tees off as he begins a round of golf with, from left to right, Nick Pederson, 29, brother Justin Rodriguez, 29, and Todd Carbello, 58, at Costa Mesa Country Club on Wednesday.
Golfer Eddie Rodriguez, 30, tees off as he begins a round of golf with, from left to right, Nick Pederson, 29, brother Justin Rodriguez, 29, and Todd Carbello, 58, at Costa Mesa Country Club on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Kyle Wilson has been at Costa Mesa Country Club for 21 years, and he took over as the club’s director of golf about a year ago.

When he took the job, he had no idea that it would involve playing the role of gatekeeper.

These are anything but ordinary times due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Wilson found himself in that unfamiliar position as noon approached on Wednesday.

For the first time since March 20, Costa Mesa Country Club opened its two public golf courses — Mesa Linda and Los Lagos — for walking play only.

Those wishing to play needed to book a tee time before arriving, and club staff stopped arriving cars before entering the parking lot to check that they had done so.

Employee Steve "Gibby" Gibbs allows a guest into the parking lot as he checks on the passengers' tee times at Costa Mesa Country Club on Wednesday.
Employee Steve “Gibby” Gibbs allows a guest into the parking lot as he checks on the passengers’ tee times at Costa Mesa Country Club on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

If players arrived earlier than 15 minutes before their tee time, they were asked to remain in their parked cars until they were within the specified window.

No matter what the job required on reopening day, Wilson said that morale at the club was “super good.” He felt that even the best-laid plans could go awry, but he said that had not been the case.

“I didn’t expect it to run as smoothly as it has, so it’s been a lot better than I anticipated,” Wilson said. “Everybody is cooperating. For the most part, everybody understands. Everybody is doing their part. Everything has been good.”

Further precautions were put in place on the course. Lines of tape set six feet apart marked where members of the group waiting to tee off could stand.

Danny Lane, the general manager of Costa Mesa Country Club, added that the restrooms were open, but that a staff member was cleaning them every hour, as well as any touch points in the area.

The driving range and putting green were closed, as was the clubhouse. Only the starter window was open.

Lane added that cups at the holes had been turned inside out, allowing players to sink their putts while still being able to pick their ball up with ease.

“I’m extremely grateful to the golfing public,” Lane said. “They’ve done a fantastic job adhering to all our guidelines, very thorough guidelines — not coming 15 minutes in advance, face coverings, social distancing. We’ve been very impressed with them, and that’s made it actually a very good start to us opening up.”

Golfers practice physical distancing as they wait their turn to tee off at Costa Mesa Country Club on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Dan Berkenfield, 45, of Costa Mesa was one of the first to play again at the venue, having been invited by a friend who secured the first tee time of 6:08 a.m.

He said that he had not told his 15-year-old son, Max, that the club was open Wednesday, and that he would likely be eager to hit the links, too.

“He’ll be jealous,” Berkenfield said. “He’ll be happy to hear about this.”

Eddie Rodriguez, 30, was getting ready to start his round on the Mesa Linda course when he shared his thoughts about playing golf with safe-play protocols in effect.

“A lot of people aren’t taking this [pandemic] seriously, whether you want to or not, but the fact that they have to [in order] to be open, I’ll follow the rules for us to get out here,” said Rodriguez, who formerly played golf at Costa Mesa High and graduated in 2008. “I’m fine with that. Everybody should be. It’s silly to not be.”

Both Costa Mesa Country Club and Mesa Verde Country Club, a private club that also opened again on Wednesday, took advantage of the stoppage in golf to aerate their greens, leaving their respective courses in pristine condition for golfers upon their return.

“We’re just happy to be here,” said Jeremy Samson, the general manager of Mesa Verde Country Club. “We’re happy to have our members back on the golf course, and we’ve developed a safety protocol that we’re following to a ‘T,’ and they’re obviously pretty happy to be back.

“We feel like we can continue to have them utilize the club in a limited capacity, and we’re moving forward. I look forward to helping Costa Mesa reopen as quickly and safely as possible.”

Golfers Tom Moody, left, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga and Gary Henson, right, 37, a club member, practice social distancing as they wait to tee off at Costa Mesa Country Club on Wednesday.
Golfers Tom Moody, left, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga and Gary Henson, right, 37, a club member, practice social distancing as they wait to tee off at Costa Mesa Country Club on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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