The unofficial start to the amateur golf season in Virginia begins with the Fox Puss Invitational.
A host of the top golfers in Virginia and the surrounding region flock to Boonsboro Country Club on the first weekend in May for the annual three-day, 54-hole tournament. It serves as the initial event of the year for many of the state’s premier amateurs, and college golfers can gauge how they are playing heading into the summer months.
The Fox Puss, this year, will serve as the unofficial close to the amateur season.
The 2020 Fox Puss Invitational was postponed to the first weekend of October because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We just thought the responsible thing to do in light of all the circumstances was just to postpone it,” Chris Webb, the chairman of the Fox Puss, said. “That buys a lot of time in terms of if things don’t change, then we can cancel at a later date. Everyone’s hopeful that come October, things will be back to, I hope, some sort of normalcy.”
The tournament, originally scheduled for May 1 through 3, now is slated to be played Oct. 2 through 4.
“I think we all realized by the first weekend in May, it’s going to be very hard to host a golf tournament that has a huge social aspect to it, which the Fox Puss does,” said Aaron Marks, Boonsboro’s head golf professional.
The Fox Puss committee considered still playing the tournament on schedule, even when Gov. Ralph Northam began limiting social gatherings to 150, 100 and even 50 people.
Marks said the committee would have found ways to schedule the tee times to ensure Boonsboro was in compliance with the state mandate and maintain the same level of competitive play.
However, it became impossible to hold a tournament with the current limit of 10 people.
“A lot of times you can make mistakes because you want to be the first one to do something and jump the gun for something that doesn’t need to be decided yet,” Marks said. “We didn’t make any decisions until the governor and the state started coming down with gatherings.”
The Fox Puss is not the first golf event in the state to be postponed because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
The Virginia State Golf Association has postponed all sanctioned events — including championships, one-day events, and junior golf circuit events and education events — through at least April 23.
“Honestly, for them it was probably the right move,” defending champion Connor Burgess said of the Fox Puss postponement. “ ... I guess you couldn’t really risk it.”
The Fox Puss has been held every year since 1971 with the exception of three years in which renovations were being completed either to the clubhouse or the course — 1988, 1994 and 1996.
Webb said the Fox Puss committee considered canceling the event this year but opted to instead postpone the event to leave open the possibility of playing the tournament.
“We’re hoping that an October date, … people are looking to get back into their routines and looking to participate in things,” he said. “If we postpone it, we can still give players the best experience we can give them and bring a little money into the club and bring a little enjoyment to some people.”
Boonsboro’s yearly schedule is packed with member events, weddings and banquets. The loaded slate made rescheduling the Fox Puss rather tricky at first, but the fall date may still feel like spring to the players.
“The course here [at Boonsboro] is usually in the best shape possible in the spring and the fall,” Marks said. “There was one summer date that we looked at, but we were worried that’s when the course transitions into Bermuda, and that’s when … we can’t get the greens as fast when that course is transitioning because of the heat.”
The new Fox Puss date is the weekend after the Virginia State Golf Association holds its 44th annual Mid-Amateur Championship at Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach from Sept. 25 through 27.
Amherst’s Marshall Tinsley is the defending champion of that event.
The second major tournament held yearly at Boonsboro — The Donna Andrews Invitational — remains on schedule for June 28 through 30.
Marks said The Donna committee will evaluate near the end of April whether to continue with the tournament as scheduled or postpone it. That date lines up with Northam’s order that certain types of businesses, like bowling alleys, salons, gyms and theaters, can potentially reopen.
“We’re hopeful that we can still put The Donna on at the end of June,” Marks added, “but it may require a few tweakings to keep social distancing and things of those nature.”
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.