If you live and die by the sword, you might have to pay the price.
Ontario. For as long as I can remember the slogan for the province that I reside in has been “Yours to Discover”, It even says so on our license plates. It’s a place with geography that’s as diverse as those that choose to live here. From the sprawling concrete jungle of Toronto and our nation’s capital (Ottawa) to the lush tender fruit orchards of Niagara to the pristine wilderness, chock full of babbling brooks and streams. There’s tremendous soil here too in places like places like Delhi, Simcoe, and Tillsonburg where tobacco fields are evident as far as the eye can see.
Because of the differing terrain throughout Ontario, it’s also a province that offers an abundance of golfing opportunities. In fact, in the Province of Ontario there are no less than 800 golf courses. Give or take a few that have gone by the wayside or that have been built. Golf in Ontario offers a decent revenue stream for the province employing thousands. Whether you’re a golf manufacturer representative, server, Pro Shop Attendant, a part of the turf crew, and so on, these people contribute to paying taxes.
Before I continue on, I just want to apologize for any political tone that this entry takes on. It really isn’t my intent.
Here in Ontario, we entered 2021 on a lockdown. As time marched on spring approached. Different regions throughout the province were permitted to “open” to varying degrees. Recreational activities like golf was allowed and with the early season tease of weather to come, golf courses and driving ranges opened their doors. For the Ontario golfing community, life was good.
COVID-19 cases surged however, and suddenly our province was mired in what was referred to as a “third wave” as COVID-19 numbers surged. Our Premier (Doug Ford) would be make an announcement. The government hit an ‘Emergency Brake: to curtail the rise in numbers in an attempt to slow down the spread of infections. Somewhat miraculously, golf was left unscathed. Honestly, I was floored. But then a very short time thereafter, the inevitable happened. Golf courses and driving ranges were ordered to close immediately (12:01 the next day).
And close they did. Always remember, “He who giveth… Can taketh away”.
You might recall me mentioning Tillsonburg earlier in this article. As it turns out a daring, intrepid golf course owner decided to say to hell with the rules, we’re going to open our doors and allow golfers to play golf. Defying orders set forth by the government. Their tee sheets were filled last Saturday and under the watchful eye of the Ontario Provincial Police, golfers played on. Talk about flipping the proverbial bird to the government and in a sense, the governing bodies like the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada (NGCOA of Canada). Whom along with their partners have undoubtedly fought the golf lockdown tooth and nail.
This writer was sort of bewildered or dumbfounded that they were open and it seemed like by-law officers and the police both turned a blind eye to the sudden activity. Last weekend, I suggested that something had to be done from a punishment standpoint because this would make the government look “impotent”. A few days wore on and there was nothing, no news. Did this golf course (The Bridges at Tillsonburg) get away with it? Heck, I have an acquaintance that lives there, plays there and he said that he wasn’t going near the place. Opting instead to go fly fishing, to be fair, it was the Trout Opener last weekend too.
(3) A person who is convicted of an offence under subsection (1) is liable,
(a) in the case of an individual, subject to clause (b), to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 and for a term of imprisonment of not more than one year;
(b) in the case of an individual who is a director or officer of a corporation, to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $500,000 and for a term of imprisonment of not more than one year; and
(c) in the case of a corporation, to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $10,000,000. 2020, c. 23, Sched. 6, s. 4.Not shown is the fact that a set fine for an individual is $750 for defying the Reopening Ontario Act.
The ownership group of The Bridges of Tillsonburg took a chance and now they’re going to pay the price for defying the provincial order. News emerged yesterday that the golf course was going to be getting fined but the amount is undetermined. They have a court date set for June 3rd.
Under the Reopening Ontario Act, a corporation like The Bridges at Tillsonburg or their ownership group could face fines of up to $10M. I’m not saying that the judge will order that amount but, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the amount set is an ungodly number. Initially, I thought that they’d be ordered to pay back all of their revenue made in the time that they’ve been open. So I hypothesized some calculations. Say, each day they had a full tee sheet and put out say 250 rounds. In that time, with concessions and a membership sold here and there their daily revenue was $9000. If they had those numbers we’re talking a fine of $63,000. That might hurt but I don’t think it would make an example of them. Taking a deeper dive into my thoughts, I wondered how their books are. If by chance they’re operating in the red or near it, this could be a death move. The fine could be so big that they’d dig themselves a hole so deep, that they’d, well… Close. No doubt though that a golf property management company like GolfNorth Properties could take over the lease.
The optics of them opening and defying the order is pretty bad. I get it, they wanted to open, make money, and maybe even do so “for the golfers”. I know that there are some who applaud them. But, the alternative view is that The Bridges at Tillsonburg threw “egg in the face” of the government and the NGCOA of Canada who are doing their best to see golf return. Proof was in the pudding that golf can be played safely during the pandemic. Didn’t we do that in 2020?
Last year, I wasn’t shy about being hesitant to play. But, I followed the rules to a tee and I never contracted the virus. This year, it’s different. I have no doubt in my mind that golf courses and ranges should be open. But, if all of the other golf facilities are closed, what makes The Bridges at Tillsonburg so special and entitled to defy?
As far as the golfers go that played, that too is being investigated by the OPP. So, those that have played there aren’t out of the woods yet. They could very conceivably be facing $750 fines per person. Heck, $750 CAD almost gets you a round at Pebble Beach. If the OPP forces them to cough up the tee sheets and the name entry was accurate (as opposed to Pro Shop Staff entering Guest 4x) the golfers would be easy enough to track down. Who knows, maybe the OPP were running license plates as vehicles entered and/or departed the golf course.
I want to play, and I want to play so badly. But, patience needs to be exercised. Golf will come. In the end, for everyone who participated I sincerely hope that it was worth it.
Until The Next Tee!!