GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 06: Cameron Pilley of Australia competes against Lewis Walters of Jamaica in the Squash Mens Singles match on day two of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Oxenford Studios on April 6, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 06: Cameron Pilley of Australia competes against Lewis Walters of Jamaica in the Squash Mens Singles match on day two of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Oxenford Studios on April 6, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Pilley’s close-up view of US COVID-19 epicentre

WHILE coronavirus cases are in our area, a former local sports star has watched the pandemic take effect from close range.

Newly retired international squash player Cameron Pilley has moved his career to be a professional at New York's Apawamis country club.

READ: Pilley hangs up his professional squash racquet

Pilley lives in bordering state Connetitcut, 15 minutes from the club which is the north of the New York State, and is about 45 minutes from the centre of the major city which has been ravaged by the disease.

"The city got hit pretty hard," Pilley said. "When it was kicking off, it took maybe a few days for things to really start to spread out and become more widespread out our way."

Pilley said that the country club was completely shut down ahead of any official lockdown orders.

Former local squash star Cameron Pilley with his wife Line Hansen and children Karla, 2, and Leo, 5 months. Pilley lives 45 minutes from New York city, having taken up as position as a club professional.
Former local squash star Cameron Pilley with his wife Line Hansen and children Karla, 2, and Leo, 5 months. Pilley lives 45 minutes from New York city, having taken up as position as a club professional.

"We're a pretty big country club," he said. "We've got seven squash courts, an unbelievable golf course, tennis, restaurants, cafes and on March 14 the club just shut it down."

"It's been basically stay at home unless it's essential. There was no laws in place like there was over in Italy, but at all playgrounds and parks you weren't allowed to sit on a bench in public."

Pilley's brother and fellow athlete Morgan also found himself at another world epicentre for the disease, training at his home in Italy, in a rural town an hour north of Rome."

READ: Yamba athlete living in the middle of Italy's outbreak

Pilley said that after the frantic first few weeks, his town is slowly returning to normal.

"Every retail place is closed down, there's a few food places, and a few diners and cafes that do pick up only and delivery," he said.

"Everywhere you walk in and there's tape marked out where you stand to make sure you're six feet apart."

Pilley said that despite the dire situation nearby, his town wasn't what he considered a hotbed, despite the presence of several hundred confirmed cases.

"Straight away everyone is wearing a mask, and keeping their distance," he said.

"Now we can go for a walk, we have them pram and people automatically take a swerve on the road.

"Considering it's the start of a bit of a recession, the mood is fairly upbeat."

Faced with his own career at a standstill, Pilley said his club was doing what they could to help out their professionals.

"Our club is such a good club, and they're looking after us pros giving us a percentage of what we would normally earn, which they don't have to do," he said.

"For them to do that is just unbelievable, for them to look after us is just unbelievable and we're really grateful."

And while the lure of the newly reopened golf course might be a strong pull, Pilley said he and others were using the time to repay the gesture of the club.

"We've been pushing the club to get the courts done for a while, and we've been able to get them completely sanded," he said.

"Me, my wife, another pro and her sister and others have been going into the club, and cleaning the walls and doing other bits. Everyone's been quarantining and are doing as much as we can to give back - it's a two-way street."

Squash player Cameron PIlley
Squash player Cameron PIlley

Pilley said that he had missed the interaction with others, with a two-year-old, and a five month old there was a touch of cabin fever.

"I think we first met up with some friends after seven weeks without seeing anyone we knew," he said.

"My oldest daughter Karla was the first few weeks was asking about her friends and the playgrounds, and it was a bit tough, but they are unbelievable how she adapts and doesn't ask about it much anymore."

Mr Pilley said he didn't really want to get involved in the politics of the situation in the US, but conceded things could've been handled a bit better.

"We're waiting on some more announcements from the governors as to when things open," he said.

"I think gyms will be one of the last things to reopen. We're looking at early June of the end of the month to see if we can run trails opening for members with restrictions."

Cameron Pilley of Australia (right) with his wife Karla Hansen and their daughter Line Pilley who flew in from Denmark after the medal ceremony for the Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Squash Match on day ten of competition at the XXI Commonwealth Games at the Oxenford Studios on the Gold Coast, Australia, Saturday, April 14, 2018. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)
Cameron Pilley of Australia (right) with his wife Karla Hansen and their daughter Line Pilley who flew in from Denmark after the medal ceremony for the Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Squash Match on day ten of competition at the XXI Commonwealth Games at the Oxenford Studios on the Gold Coast, Australia, Saturday, April 14, 2018. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)


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