Brooke Henderson hopes Ontario golf courses open soon

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Brooke Henderson hopes that golf courses in her home province will reopen soon.

Outdoor activities like golf and tennis are currently banned under Ontario's COVID-19 recovery framework. Henderson, from Smiths Falls, Ont., said on Tuesday she thinks golf can be played safely if social distancing is practised.

"I think golf, if you do it safely and follow all the protocols around the clubhouse and with groupings and stuff, it can be done very safely," said Henderson.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott hinted on Monday that limits on outdoor recreation could be lifted before the province's stay-at-home order expires on June 2, depending on pandemic indicators.

"We are anticipating that there may be other events, summer camps, golf, tennis, other things may be available as of June 2 or perhaps before, depending on the clinical evidence that we receive," she said. "It's being reviewed on a very regular basis."

Elliott said COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care admissions would be factors in the decision.

Ontario reported 1,616 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Tuesday and 17 more deaths linked to the virus. The Ministry of Health said 1,484 people were in hospital with the novel coronavirus – 764 in intensive care and 559 people on a ventilator.

The province's ban on outdoor recreational facilities has been heavily criticized by health experts and the government's science advisers.

Henderson, who is ranked No. 5 in the women's world standings, said that the LPGA is an example of how golf can be played safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've been able to play pretty consistently week in and week out with low cases and low transmission," said Henderson. "I think it is a great way for people to get outdoors and still be able to socialize a little bit, so hopefully courses will open up in the near future."

The 23-year-old Henderson is playing in the LPGA's Pure Silk Championship this week in Williamsburg, Va. It's her first tournament since winning the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open on April 24 for her 10th career victory.

This week is also the first time an LPGA event has been open to the general public since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Henderson said she's excited to have fans on the course again.

"You definitely miss the energy and adrenalin that they bring and I think it is limited still but it's really nice to have that little bit extra boost when you tee it up on the first hole and have fans applaud good shots," she said.

— With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2021.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press