The clock at the Maple Creek Golf Club Pro Shop reads 5.30pm.
It is Thursday, June 9, which means Men’s League. As ever, Pro shop manager Elaine Shelstad is a whirl of motion, recording bookings, accepting fees, and handling drink purchases. Cans of Kokanee beer seem particularly popular tonight.
In a break between customers, she dashes outside to scour a golf cart; cleaning practices brought in during the COVID-19 pandemic are being continued.
Shelstad also speaks to out-of-towners wanting a tee time – Tuesday and Thursday evenings are given over to Ladies’ and Men’s Leagues, she explains – deals with a golf balls request, and finds an extension cord for Shylo Mosquito, who wishes to keep her food heated in her stall outside the shop.
As tonight’s event is being sponsored by Nekaneet First Nation, Shylo and her helper, Chloe Francis, were invited to prepare Bannock burgers and salad.
Some golfers, like Cale Blythman and Jason Williams, grab a quick bite to eat before teeing off.
Shelstad remains busy, busy, busy as the clock ticks towards 6pm. No wonder the club is looking for a part-time Pro Shop attendant, starting straight away and working potentially until October 15.
By 5.55pm, 45 golfers had booked their places in the Men’s League. The final tally would be 47, which compares favourably with pre-COVID numbers of about 30.
It reinforces a mood of optimism at the club.
Williams, who helps to organize the Men’s League, says the club’s finances are in good shape. Several years ago, it was $60,000 in debt. Now that debt has been cleared off, and there is money in the bank.
In common with trends elsewhere, the club emerged from COVID in rude health. During the height of restrictions, golf proved a good quarantine outlet: it is played outdoors, which meant a lower risk of transmission; it requires no real proximity with others, thus abiding by social distancing rules; and it can be played alone.
Shelstad, who is into her third year as Pro Shop manager and sixth working at the club, has seen memberships and rounds of golf rise over the last three years.
“The increase has been significant,” she says.
So far, 2022 membership stands at 149.
Those venturing out on the course for Men’s League enjoyed lush, verdant grass, thanks to recent downpours, and the care of greenskeeper Charlie Johnston and his assistant, Greg McDonald.
“We’ve had one-and-a-half inches of rain, which is excellent for the course,” said Shelstad. “I think people appreciate playing on a green course.”
Of course, there is a downside to a lot of rain – players have to put down their clubs until the weather improves.
Staff are confident the course will be immaculate condition for one of the most important dates on their calendar: June 18. That is when the Zack Smith Retirement Golf Tournament will take place, with 112 golfers dividing their time at Maple Creek Golf Club and Cypress Hills Golf Course.
The event, a fundraiser for Southwest communities’ initiatives, should provide a fitting send-off for one of Maple Creek’s most famous sporting idols.