Barring any setbacks due to COVID-19 or the weather, Sand Creek Station is set for another exciting summer of championship golf.
The course is set to host four events under the auspices of Central Links Golf (a merger of the Kansas Golf Association and Kansas City Golf Association).
The first will be a Kansas Junior Golf Association Tour event June 23; followed by the Railer, the Kansas Men’s Amateur Stroke Play Championships June 26 to 28; a Kansas Men’s Amateur Qualifier June 29; and the return of the Kansas Women’s Amateur Championships July 13 and 14.
"We’re still practicing what’s most important, and that’s the social distancing," Kemper Sports Regional Manager Chris Tuohey said. "We’ve been working close with city hall. We’ve kept our ear to the ground with the county and the county health department. We’ve been told our efforts are most likely above and beyond what we need to do. We’re practicing social distancing, allowing patrons to take one golf cart, so they don’t have to sit with someone. We’ve removed all the rakes. In regards to the championships and what safety measures we’re going to take, we plan to work with Central Links on every single championship. These groups have to abide by the policies set by the Kansas and county health departments. It will be a partnership with the golf association."
"There is still some uncertainty with some details. Will we allow caddies to ride with players? Right now, the cups are flipped upside down so the ball doesn’t go in the hole. That’s yet to be determined."
Kemper Sports manages the course for the city of Newton.
Tuohey said some of the finer details will be determined by the time the Railer rolls around.
While he said it was a fluid situation and he doesn’t know how many could be accommodated, Tuohey expects spectators will be allowed at the events.
"Provided we can provide spectator golf carts, the carts are disinfected from head to toe," he said. "We’ve been using a chemical (that) has been approved. The carts are doused thoroughly. The restrooms are doused thoroughly. They can come out if they want to watch, but we will be requesting that they follow social distancing guidelines that are still in place."
Tuohey said restrictions for clubhouse use, including the snack bar, will probably remain.
"We’re going to allow limited access," Tuohey said. "Given that the clubhouse is only a couple thousand square feet, there won’t be allowed a lot of patrons in the clubhouse. That would be throughout the entire year. Once we do allow patrons in the clubhouse, our staff will be wearing face coverings and gloves."
Tuohey said food and beverage service will probably be offered on a carry out basis, but said that’s also a fluid situation.
"We’re now allowing anybody to sit down and eat at this time, but in the coming weeks, we may allow a few patrons at a time," he said. "What’s most important is we’re abiding by the six-foot spacing."
The course did lose a number of spring tournaments at the high school and college level, including a round of the Bethel Invitational, the Newton High School Boys’ Invitational, the Class 5A State Boys Championships and the Summit League Championships, an NCAA Division I conference tourney.
The KSHSAA announced the Class 5A state boys tournament will return in 2021.
Tuohey said the Summit League will return next year and will extend its stay to 2022 with a possibility for 2023.
Tuohey said the course has lost a few corporate outings.
"That’s been a melting pot," he said. "We have a few that we will host in the summer, provided we can. We have some that have been moved to the fall. We’ve had a few events that have been canceled outright, but they plan to hold their events in 2021. It’s all over the board. … That did take its toll, but we’ve seen nice activity with daily fee play. We expect to be back to running competitive events next year."
Tuohey said the course and the city of Newton are close to an agreement with the All-Pro Tour to return to the course this fall. The APT scheduled a tournament for the summer of 2019, but heavy flooding in the area forced cancellation.
"We’re happy to have them coming," Tuohey said. "We’re in the final stages of locking in an agreement."
He expects that tournament would be held Sept. 15 to 17.
"We want to provide the safest environment possible than anyone else," Tuohey said. "By doing that, we think that is going to provide us with a great reputation in the community. … We’re glad golf can provide this safe environment. It can provide an essential activity. And what better place than 176 acres?"