“We opened it up Wednesday [April 29],” Canal Shores General Manager Tony Frandria said. “We sold Saturday out in 35 minutes.” RoundTable photo

When Governor J.B. Pritzker gave the all-clear sign for golf courses along with a few other “non-essential” businesses to reopen Friday, May 1, it did not take long for area golfers to begin lighting up Canal Shores’s phone and website portal.

“We opened it up Wednesday [April 29],” said Tony Frandria, the general manager and superintendent at the undersized public course, which runs through Evanston and Wilmette. “We sold Saturday out in 35 minutes.”

The Governor’s order came with some conditions, including the requirements that tee times be booked only online ahead of time; no carts be used; and social distancing maintained.

At the small community course, almost all volunteer-run, “we had eight days to prepare,” Mr. Frandria said, “but it’s been a difficult task trying to get our tee sheets set at 15-minute intervals, only twosomes, and trying to put the message out on social media,” he said, sitting in his golf cart outside the main entrance at 1039 Central St.

“We started getting lots of calls, and it took us three or four days to get our portal up and running, because all the tee times have to be booked on line, or by the phone, but we’re making our players book on line,” he said. “And then we also have to accommodate our 103 season-pass holders, so we had to create a separate portal for our season pass holders in order

to make tee times at no charge.”

Teeing off May 1, Wes and Alex Steege traveled from Lakeview to play, and the outing at Canal Shores was actually their second for the day, Wes said.

Canal Shores figured as their choice because “one, it’s a good couples course,” he explained, “and then also, being a community course, they’re not-for-profit and coming here playing helps them stay open and alive so that was a focus also.”

Add to that, “It’s a great opportunity to get outside and stretch our legs a little bit.”

As for safety concerns, “I think it’s safe for golf due to the fact  you’re already far enough away from everybody,” Wes said. “I like the [Governor’s] measure that it’s walking only. I walk anyway. You’re off doing your own round; you’re not next to anybody in a golf cart, so I don’t see any problem with that.”

The holes have foam cut-outs, “pool noodles,” said Wes, “so you can pull your balls out without touching the cup.”

Until now, at home “it’s been a lot of cooking and watching television,” Alex said.

“It’s nice to be outside,” she said.

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.