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In Wisconsin's capital, fight to play golf continues

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How do you safely balance health and economic needs?

With President Donald Trump saying the cure for the coronavirus pandemic may be worse than the disease with businesses shut down, golfers and golf course owners are finding themselves at the center of public debate over the shaping of national policy.

In Madison, Wisconsin, there’s a battle being waged over whether golf courses should be included in a state order closing nonessential business there.

While outdoor activities like walking, biking, hiking and Frisbee golf are allowed under the “Safer at Home” order that took effect Wednesday, golf isn’t, with courses shut down.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported on Thursday that a petition on Change.org seeking to overturn golf course closures had nearly 19,000 signatures.

“We’re doing things that make us safer than other outdoor activities,” Jeff Schwister, executive director of the Golf Course Owners of Wisconsin, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “You go down to your local parks, state parks, things like that that are open, they can be quite crowded on the trails.”

• Click here to see if golf is allowed in your city, county or state

When Gov. Tony Evers’ order went into effect Wednesday morning, many courses in the Madison area were already open or preparing to open. Courses are scheduled to remain closed until at least April 24.

In a short Wisconsin season, courses that are already struggling will face major challenges. Layoffs during the closure is likely.

“You take a business like golf that’s already on the brink of shutting down and shut it down even more ... not everyone’s going to survive,” Becky Iverson, a former LPGA pro who is now general manager at Bridges Golf Course in Madison, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “In the heat of the summer, we have over 60 employees and we’d obviously have to lay everybody off.”

Iverson said most of her employees would not qualify for unemployment.

Wisconsin PGA executive director Joe Stadler told the newspaper his organization is preparing to present a case to the state to keep courses open for play.

According to the National Golf Course Owners Association, 12 states with nonessential business closures are allowing golf courses to remain open.