Finley: 'Because I said so' not right answer

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

All Dave Mahaney wanted to know was why.

Why could he open his Williamston golf course, but not sell carry-out six packs of beer for his customers to take out on the course? Why would that put golfers in any more danger of spreading COVID-19 than, say, selling them a sleeve of balls?

Especially when he knew golfers were stopping at the local party store to buy beer and sneaking it onto the course in their golf bags. 

"If they sell beer in a party store, I ought to be able to sell beer on a golf course," Mahaney says. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Mahaney expresses the same frustration Michigan businesses and residents have felt from the beginning of the shutdown, which the governor will ease Monday.

Golfers head out for a round at Brookshire Golf Club in Williamston on Saturday. Owner Dave Mahaney said the business was recently hit with a state liquor control violation for selling beer to golfers against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 executive orders.

Her more than 100 executive orders have covered nearly every aspect of life in Michigan. But they've rarely come with answers to questions like those Mahaney asks.

And that's why there's been so much resentment, anger and defiance.

Count Mahaney among the defiant ones. 

He took every step possible to protect golfers at his Brookshire Inn and Golf Club. He kept the equipment clean, and put one golfer per cart — once Whitmer lifted her non-sensical ban on golf carts.

But beer and golf are inseparable. So Mahaney ignored the ban.

"People came into the bar in the back door and bought six packs," he says. "I didn’t put a beverage cart out there."

Someone snitched. An undercover staffer of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission showed up at his course near Lansing posing as a golfer.

And Mahaney now has his first liquor license violation in 34 years in business.

His experience has become common during the shutdown. Otherwise law-abiding citizens find themselves holding tickets bearing fines up to $1,000 because they refuse to blindly follow arbitrary orders limiting their freedoms and livelihoods.

"I knew I was violating the order," Mahaney admits. "I took a chance. I just sold beer to my leagues. I try to keep my leagues happy; that’s my bread and butter."

Mahaney says he might have been inclined to go along with Whitmer's restrictions had he understood them.

"She never explains herself," he says. " I think if she would answer questions, it would go over better. As of right now, people in business in this state think she’s a dictator."

What Mahaney is expressing is a byproduct of unchecked power. 

Because her emergency powers give her total control over our lives, Whitmer doesn't have to spell out the rationale behind orders that too often feel petty and unwarranted. 

Brookshire Golf Club owner Dave Mahaney stands near the pro shop at his golf course in Williamston on Saturday.

 When those like Mahaney ask why, the answer is, "Because I said so."

"She never explains herself," he says. "It's crazy to me."

Crazier still is that Michigan law allows a governor to seize total control of the state and its people, with no limits on how long or how severely she can keep them locked up, and no requirement to justify what she's doing.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

Sign up for the Nolan Out Loud morning report at

Watch Finley on DPTV’s “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.