The day many of you have been dreaming about since the start of the long, cold Buffalo winter finally arrived Thursday at a fairway in Elma.
Erie County’s two golf courses, Elma Meadows and Grover Cleveland in Buffalo, opened for business. And for at least this day, the hardships of winter were but a distant memory.
That’s the sweet sound of Tim Muldoon driving his golf ball toward the green on the 17th hole at Elma Meadows.
“Turn,” Muldoon yelled to the ball.
“Oh, good shot,” said Muldoon’s golfing buddy, Steve Smith.
Actually, the diehards, like Smith of Cheektowaga, have been golfing for the past couple of weeks, as many of the public and private courses around the Buffalo area have opened already.
The weather just hasn’t cooperated as much as anyone would like.
“We’ve been open a good couple of weeks, and it’s been a little bit of a slow start,” said Colleen Tripi, general manager of the Glen Oaks Golf Course in East Amherst. “People are excited to get out there, but they’re not able to because of the weather.”
“We haven’t had much play so far, but hopefully that will change,” said Pat Phillips, the head pro at Tan Tara Golf Club in North Tonawanda.
“The phone is ringing off the hook with people just asking about the conditions.”
Many courses took a beating this winter. They still need time to dry out.
“It’s soft,” Phillips said of the course. “We were doing pretty good until we got that rain last Tuesday.”
Elma Meadows is drying out nicely, although Grover Cleveland is still pretty wet, said Kim Decker, superintendent of the two county courses.
“It snowed here out in Elma yesterday,” Decker said Thursday. “That was really discouraging. We knew we would open up today, we just weren’t sure we were going to have any customers.”
But enough of the bad weather, already. If the courses were going to open, golfers – still getting over a bout of cabin fever – weren’t about to pass up Thursday. It was brisk – high in the mid-50s – but sunny.
“We are busy today,” said Paul Wanecski, a pro shop assistant at Diamond Hawk Golf Course in Cheektowaga. “Golf is an addictive sport, and the guys have really been champing at the bit.”
“Both days that were nice out this week we had over 100 golfers,” said Joshua Wojtaszczyk, the head golf pro at Harvest Hill Golf Course in Orchard Park.
At Elma Meadows, Muldoon stopped over for a round of golf with Smith and his father, Clair, who showed up a half hour before the course opened at 7 a.m. They had to wait a couple of hours to get on the course, because of a frost delay.
But it was worth it.
“The course is playing a little long and soft out there, but it’s sunny,” said Muldoon, of Buffalo. “What else can you ask for?”
Those were the sentiments of Gordon Bandelian, of Williamsville, and Michael Dorobiala, of Orchard Park, who played Elma Meadows.
“Feels like summer,” Bandelian said.
Like other local golfers, Ron Coniglio, of Amherst, and Ron Croce, of Depew, have been spoiled by the recent mild winters. Last year at this time, the two retirees had already golfed 10 times. This year, Coniglio kept staring at his new clubs wondering if he’d ever get a chance to use them.
“This is a joy,” Coniglio said of Thursday’s weather.
“I’m surprised there aren’t more people out here.”
Just before 1 p.m., Muldoon and the Smiths finished up their round at Elma Meadows.
How did you do?
“Mine’s a little high,” Steve Smith said of his score.
“But he had a nice round,” Smith said, nodding to Muldoon, “a 78.”
Muldoon enjoyed the moment. “Not a bad start,” he said.