FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- One of the unintended results of the pandemic was the renewed popularity of people getting outside to golf again.
While many businesses were forced to shutter and families were being asked to isolate, courses everywhere saw an uptick in tee times, including Sherwood Forest Golf Club in Sanger.
The last family-owned 18-hole golf course in Fresno County has managed to stay busy by learning to reinvent itself over the years.
"You put your heart and soul in something, so when I drive the course, I notice every single thing about it," said General Manager Stacy Hansen Dovali.
Stacy Hansen Dovali grew up with golf in her DNA.
When she was a kid, her grandfather and dad would pay her 5 cents for every ball she retrieved from the lake and river.
"When I made $6, it was a good day," she said.
Hansen Dovali has moved up a few rungs on the corporate ladder since her days retrieving golf balls.
She's the latest general manager at Sherwood Forest Golf Club.
"It's fun, it's exciting and really I'm just excited to continue the legacy of the hard work my grandparents and parents started by building this," she said.
The Sanger public course opened in 1968. The hundreds of trees that line the more than 6,200 yards of fairways and greens offer not just plenty of shade but a pleasant golfing experience.
"It's a fun time for beginners, it's an easy walk," said Director of Golf Eric Smith.
Smith joined the team as Director of Golf less than two years ago and has seen a renewed interest in the course since then -- especially after the pandemic hit.
He says there hasn't been much of a slowdown -- as many picked up the sport for the first time while others find themselves wanting to play again.
Safety restrictions also forced management to rethink its business strategy.
"When COVID hit, we moved our operation completely outside," Smith said. "We started with folding tables and have upgraded some nice structures. We've built some counters outside, cordless phones outside so we can make tee times," said Smith.
The move outdoors has also helped management provide even better service, they say.
"We're right next to the practice putting green," Smith said. "We can talk to our golfers more easily without there being as big of a barrier as coming in the building," said Smith.
A recent tree trimming project has opened the course off the tee box while allowing for clearer openings into greens.
Officials say they're also looking at new ways to keep the course looking green and playable year-round.
"It's about keeping the golf course maintenance in shape, all the greens and tee boxes. Making sure the greens are in good health," said Course Superintendent Juan Aguayo.
Officials say the course has never looked better.
"It's an exciting time for Sherwood, for our team and for all of our customers really," said Hansen Dovali.
Good Sports: Family-owned Sanger golf course continuing legacy
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