Rancho Viejo, River Bend among golf courses reopened to members

Rancho Viejo Resort and Country Club and River Bend Resort and Country Club in Brownsville were among the East Valley golf courses to reopen Friday, when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order went into effect.

Golf courses had been a source of heated debate amid the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic which shuttered public courses and many private courses throughout the state.

The governor also published a report outlining minimum standard health protocols for golfers and outdoor sports in general.

The report states that “individuals may engage in outdoor sports, provided that the sports do not include contact with other participants, and no more than four participants play the sport at any time.”

A supplemental checklist in the report provides golfers an opportunity to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms.

It also includes a checklist of precautions for golfers, which are as follows:

– Clean and sanitize golf carts and push carts between uses.

– Except for members of the same household, no more than one individual per golf cart.

– Clean and disinfect driving range golf balls between use. Ensure separation of at least 6 feet between golfers on the driving range.

“Golfers are crazy people,” said Jesse Lucio, a retired golf pro and college coach in Brownsville. “We want to play. We need to get on the golf course. … You’re with two or three people maybe, and you’re never close up to each other unless you’re riding a golf cart with someone.”

Lucio said Thursday he planned to play a round Friday at South Padre Island Golf Club in Laguna Vista.

Lucio’s daughter, Julie, is a Brownsville Veterans Memorial alumna and the top-ranked player for the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

At Rancho Viejo, the resort is asking for members to abide by the state’s guidelines, as well as strongly advising golfers to wear masks and to not remove the flag from each hole. It is also requiring tee times and no longer accepting walk-ins.

“The (Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr.) and the state of Texas have done really well to control (the shelter-in-place order) for the last three or four weeks,” Lucio said. “They’ve done a really good job issuing directives about face masks and all that. I’m glad to see golf courses are opening up.”

Lucio normally would offer private lessons at the Brownsville Golf Center, and said he has a nephew who resides in Houston who is holding virtual golf lessons via Zoom.

“You kind of have to adjust and do your own thing right now as a coach,” Lucio said.

Adrian Garcia is the former longtime Brownsville Hanna coach and president of the Rio Grande Valley Golf Coaches Association. He is also an assistant pro at the River Bend Resort and Country Club, and runs the junior clinics at the course with general manager/golf pro Eddie Medlin.

Garcia said the Rio Grande Valley Jr. Golf Association, based in Mission at the Shary Municipal Course, canceled its summer tour.

During the summer, River Bend often has high school players offer their services as volunteer coaches for younger players from as far as Los Fresnos, San Benito or Harlingen in exchange for free rounds of golf. But the course will not be holding any clinics or lessons in groups larger than four.

“Overall, I think it’s going to be a really quiet summer,” Garcia said. “It has to be. We don’t want to expose any kids, we don’t know what’s going on. We’re still going to be very cautious about groups.

“Junior golf is still on the back burner all the way across, with tournaments, with everything. It will be different. It won’t be the same. We’ll practice more social distancing, we’ll wash hands. We’re going to have to. It’s a different world and different time.”

Garcia noted that at the high school level, players recorded a sufficient number of rounds to merit all-district and all-Valley lists.

The RGVGCA is asking high school coaches to submit their all-district lists to the organization by May 8 so they can be posted online.

Stefan Modrich Total Posts: 158 Stefan Modrich is a 2017 graduate of Arizona State University, where he was the Sports Editor for The State Press, ASU's independent student news publication. He is also a graduate of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he completed a foreign language program in 2018. A native of Franklin Park, Illinois, Modrich previously covered high school sports for The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Mars Reel Media.