Johnston: Governor looking into situation at Pawtucket Country Club

Johnston: Governor looking into situation at Pawtucket Country Club

PAWTUCKET – Rep. Raymond Johnston said he heard back from Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office on Monday and representatives there confirmed they received his letters about the ongoing issues at the Pawtucket Country Club and are looking into the issue.

Johnston last week called on Raimondo to make an exception for the golf club on the Rhode Island and Massachusetts line to allow Massachusetts golfers to play unimpeded despite a quirk in the rules related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would like to request a variance of your executive order, one that would allow Massachusetts residents, at least those from Seekonk or a predetermined distance from the course, to play,” he wrote.

Johnston’s son, a Pawtucket firefighter and Rhode Islander, is a member of the club but not impacted by this request. Johnston himself is not a member of the club.

Johnston said he also made officials aware of an article in the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire about the same issue at a golf course there and how the governor changed his order to allow everyone to play at the New Hampshire courses.

In his letter last week, Johnston noted the “unusual issue due to the restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” a scenario created by the governor’s rules and the club’s unique geographical position covering property in two states.

“To sum up, your executive order prohibits anybody but a Rhode Island resident from using a Rhode Island golf course. This has caused difficulty for Pawtucket Country Club, since some 65 percent of its membership is from the abutting town of Seekonk, Mass,” he wrote. “Further muddying the waters is the fact that, although it is a Rhode Island golf course, the large majority of its property lies within the borders of Massachusetts.”

The Breeze reported last week on the situation, quoting the owners as saying they could go out of business due to the loss of revenue they’re experiencing. With some restrictions lifted, they are now allowing Massachusetts members to enter the course on that side of the line and play the holes in Massachusetts.

Johnston said the owners of the club have been diligent about following the rules, they have taken every health and safety precaution, have established hand sanitizing stations and have adopted a rule of one person per cart. The owners have also indicated that they are willing to test the golfers, going above and beyond requirements, he said.

“Pawtucket Country Club is an important and longtime Pawtucket institution. It caters to, as the owners put it, blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth types,” he said. “They have also adhered closely to all the rules and regulations relating to COVID-19. It’s also in a unique position of straddling the border of two states. This, coupled with the fact that the very nature of golf lends itself to social distancing with ease, perhaps an arrangement can be made to make an exception for the Pawtucket Country Club.”