WINDSOR, ONT. -- With a gift from Mother Nature, a number of Windsor-Essex golf courses kicked off their seasons this week, with a handful of others looking to follow suit in the weeks to come.

“It’s time, it was time with this pandemic going on, being trapped in your home,” says Dennis Coady, one of the first golfers to play a round in 2021 at Amherstburg’s Fox Glen Golf Club.

The club informed members that it would allow golfers on the course, walking only, starting March 10. According to the head pro, Dennis Kelly, it didn’t stay a secret very long.

“We’re actually sold out today. Phone ringing off the hook, three lines going,” says Kelly. “Once the word got out that we were going to open, people chomping at the bit to get out.”

Fox Glen and Orchard View Golf Club in Kingsville are among the first — likely in Ontario to welcome people back for an uncharacteristically early start to the season.

“Warm weather always brings people out and they’re ready, and we are too,” says Dave Deluzio, the GM and head PGA professional at Roseland Golf and Curling Club.

Deluzio expects Roseland to open sometime in March, weather permitting, and hopes this season is just as popular as 2020.

“The golf business was caught by surprise, in a good way and the game and the sport really got a shot in the arm,” Deluzio says. “We haven’t seen anything like this since the ‘Tiger boom’ and I’m optimistic that even when things get back to normal, that we will retain a lot of those golfers.”

When most sports were shut down due to COVID restrictions — Golf was allowed to open up in a safe manner.

“A pandemic to make this happen was something I don’t think any of us every thought,” says Adam Wagner, the head professional at Windsor’s Ambassador Golf Club, who notes the sport experienced a 20 per cent increase to business last year.

With borders still closed, Wagner says golfers are playing close to home.

“Golf as a whole, a lot of new golfers starting to take up the game with not a whole lot to do last summer, so the driving range was extremely busy, as well as the golf course. Tee times were at a premium,” Wagner says.

One of those new golfers is Damion Smith.

“It was something to do, get outside other than being stuck at home,” says Smith, who is a trainer at a local gym but unable to work for most of the year, let alone play other sports.

“It was definitely something I picked up because of COVID,” he says, adding it’s a sport he will keep playing even when the pandemic restrictions ease on a number of other activities.

Club pros expect 2021 to be just as busy, if not busier — especially with the early gift from Mother Nature.