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Alice Hewson Provides Light in Dark Times for Golf

By: | Mon 16 Mar 2020 | Comments

WE ARE living in strange times. None of us quite know how coronavirus is going to play out, but we do know that it has already had a huge impact upon all of our lives. Town and city centres are all but deserted, supermarket shelves are being stripped bare as we prepare for the worst, schools and business are preparing to close and the world of sport has come to a grinding halt. I don’t know about you, but I was not at all comfortable shopping at my local supermarket on Saturday morning because of the certainty that somebody in the store surely must have been carrying the virus. The slightest sneeze or cough made me jump.

In our own sport, the PGA Tour has cancelled tournament play up to The Masters, which has also now been scrapped for the time being. And the European Tour is not scheduled to resume until the end of April although the chances of the Andalucia Masters going ahead in Spain are slim to non existent with that country in complete lockdown.

So we have had no Players Championship, Valspar Championship, WGC Dell Technologies Match Play or Texas Open. The LPGA has also cancelled several tournaments.

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, said: “Our goal now is to focus on a plan for the near and long-term and maintain the strength we’ve built through our organisation over the past 51 years, and I’m confident we’ll do exactly that.

"Our sponsors are fully supportive of the decision we made. They had proper input into the decision we made. And now it’s on to, how do we address and help the communities that we vacated? Hold us accountable to that because we’re going to do some great things.”

It is often forgotten that the PGA Tour does some amazing work with local charities and there will be serious concerns that with the cancellation of tournaments, that work may not continue. Money raised from ticket revenue is channeled towards schools, hospitals and the like, with tens of millions of dollars raised for good causes every year. It’s a side of professional golf that we don’t hear much about - and it simply must continue.

As things stand, the next event on the schedule is the RBC Heritage starting the week of April 12, followed by the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. “We need to continue to understand what’s happening on the ground in the markets where we would be returning to play, continue to work with our partners in those markets, continue to understand what’s happening with the World Health Organisation, and then ultimately that will guide our decision. We’re going to make sure that we protect the safety and well-being of all of our constituents as we make that decision,” said Monahan.

The good news is that no players, caddies or PGA and European Tour staff have been diagnosed with coronoavirus. But that doesn’t mean nobody has it. “Right now there aren’t enough tests out there,” Monahan said. “And so the responsible things to do is to make certain that the tests are being used appropriately, and if we wanted to test everybody out here … we might be taking away from that. …

“If anybody in our system feels like they’re in any way compromised, we’d certainly recommend and help them do anything we can to help them get tested. But right now, that’s certainly not the case.

“Golf is the greatest game on the planet,” Monahan said. “There are a lot of people that are in this business, in this industry that make their living through this game, and I hope that everybody as they go through this uncertain time gets an opportunity to get out, play golf, be outside, support their PGA of America professional, support this game, be inspired by this game.

“Of course, everybody needs to think about what’s happening in their local marketplace, but I want to make sure that not only are we inspiring the communities where we play, but hopefully people are inspired to continue to use this game to get through a challenging time, and that’s what we’re going to encourage people to do.”

My own golf club was much quieter than normal at the weekend, and a couple of things struck me - very few people wanted to socialise in the clubhouse after they had finished their rounds. And despite everything we are being told about the importance of standards of hygiene, there was no additional hand sanitiser in evidence.

There was some competitive golf at the weekend, with England’s Alice Hewson winning her maiden Ladies European Tour title at the South African Open at the very first attempt.

Hewson, playing in her first tour event, finished five under as the tournament took place despite the coronavirus outbreak. The 22-year-old rookie, who began the day three shots behind Germany's Olivia Cowan, shot 71 in the final round. The next leg of the 2020 Race to Costa del Sol in Saudi Arabia has been postponed because of coronavirus.

"Growing up as a kid, all I could ever dream of was playing on the Ladies European Tour and to come and win my first event, the feeling is indescribable," said Hewson. "This has definitely happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. I was hoping to get off to a nice steady start, but this is definitely a good thing."

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