John McComish and his five young golf students have been relishing, well, simply doing some golfing.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, California governor Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place directive in March. Restrictions have gradually eased, and golf courses were among the first area mass-use facilities that re-opened to the public.

After doing distance learning at home once the schools closed statewide in March and with outside activities somewhat limited because of pandemic-related distancing concerns,  "It's been a lot of fun just getting out of the house," Santa Maria resident Ayden Brockway, 12, said.

He spoke during a break in instruction Wednesday at the first of a series of social distance-monitored Junior Golf Camps McComish is overseeing at Rancho Maria Golf Club.

The first series of camps ended Thursday. There will be others June 29 -July 2, July 13-16, July 27-30 and Aug. 10-Aug. 13. Camps run from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and from 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Rancho Maria.

McComish, who lives in Santa Maria, said he played on the PGA Tour for five years. He said he has been running these camps for several years.

"Last year we had four camps and over 100 kids," said McComish.

"This year of course, because of COVID, there are less kids but I'm happy with the turnout. We have 14 kids registered for the (June 29-July 2) camp session."

As his students practiced their chip-to-green shots, with clearly delineated distance markers for the golfers, McComish said, "This is great, just to get out in the open area with the breeze blowing, where the virus isn't as dangerous.

"Look at all this," he said, gesturing toward the spacious course. There were plenty of golfers out on the course Wednesday, but spacing was abundantly easy. Much of the course was unoccupied.

Ayden Brockway said that he has been playing golf "for about a year now. I just got my clubs two Christmases ago.

"I did this (camp) last year. It was super fun, so I decided I'd do it again."

His brother, Travis Brockway, 10, was also at the camp. He said he has also played golf for about a year and was at the camp last year as well.

"It's a fun thing to get out of the house and do," he said.

Camper Kyle Long, 14, said he is a first-time golfer.

"Golf is fun," he said. "I like putting the best.

"It's definitely nice to get out of the house."

McComish gave the campers encouraging instruction.

"That's it, Austin!," he called out to one after a well-struck chip shot. "Good job!"

McComish said to another, "Remember, you need to bring the club around like a pendulum. You brought it around a little too fast at the front end. That's all right."

He praised the modifications Rancho Maria staff have made during the pandemic.

"Everyone has their own cart," he said. "They've put fuzz in the holes, so the ball drops in but you can just reach in and get it. They've taken all the ball washers out. Nothing that anyone else (other than a single golfer) touches is out here."

John McComish's daughter, pro Sarah McComish, and Righetti girls golf coach Brian Tomooka are slated to be instructors at future camps.        


Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.