“I’m ecstatic,” Gilbert Licon said Friday afternoon as he prepared to tee up on the first hole of the Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring Hill.
It wasn’t the first day Licon had been out for a round since the course opened May 2. The city closed the course and its parks on March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve played every day,” he said. Friday he was playing with a friend, Omar Mata, and his young son, Julian.
“We’re going to make Julian a champion golfer,” Licon said.
Licon, who said he has golfed for 64 years, said the closure period was “awful,” and in the meantime would practice his swing at Berrendo Middle School.
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“It really didn’t affect (my game) because I kept the golf club in my hand, practicing. I practiced every day,” he said.
He said it wasn’t difficult to follow the new rules.
“We practice social distancing and there’s only one to a cart, unless you live under the same roof. We adhere to the rules because we don’t want it closed again,” he said.
Among the other rules in the order issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 30, golfers must wear a face covering if social distancing cannot be practiced or when interacting with staff members; golf carts must be cleaned between rounds; flag sticks must stay in the hole at all times; pro shops remain closed; and tee times are scheduled at eight- or 12-minute intervals, depending on the size of the party.
City of Roswell Parks Director Jim Burress said the city doesn’t have enough staff in the department to enforce the rules on the course and is trusting golfers will police themselves.
The same can be said for basketball and tennis courts, which also reopened, Burress said.
“We’re going to trust them. It’s no different than anything else,” he said.
The golf course pro shop is closed and any beverages or snacks have to be ordered ahead of time. While the department prefers fees to be paid by credit card when tee times are scheduled, cash is accepted, he said. The transaction has to take place outside the pro shop.
And there’s no having a beer and a hot dog after a round, either, Burress said.
“In the past, everybody would sit down and the talk about their scores for awhile. We don’t do that,” he said.
Golfers at the Nancy Lopez course have probably noticed one other big change, Burress said.
“This is the first time in history, that I know of, that the golf course is actually going to have a rough,” he said, referring to areas of a course where grass is cut higher or not mowed.
Not mowing around the trees will save the parks department about 30 to 40 hours of labor a week by one employee, he said.
“We need to go do something else other than to mow the grass in between the trees. We’ll use those hours and that money for something else,” he said.
And there is plenty for the Parks Department employees to do, he said, especially with some having been reassigned to different departments such as wastewater or the landfill.
“You would think things would slow down. Our work doubled,” he said.
Community service assignments from Roswell Municipal Court have been temporarily suspended. Many of those people were assigned to the Parks Department. Two zookeepers have been covering that work.
“Community service has always taken care of Main Street, Second Street. They weed-whack, pick up trash. That’s our zookeepers. They rotate. You just have to do what has to be done,” he said.
Other parks employees worked during the closure to clean and disinfect playground equipment and benches in parks as well as bus stops.
They will continue to do so once a week, Burress said. Crews use a peroxide disinfectant in pump sprayers that dries in about one minute, Burress said.
“We’re going to continue to disinfect anything you can get your hands on until we get the all-clear,” he said.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.