View From The Fairway - Life Slowly Returns to Normal on Tour
OUR thoughts are with Tiger Woods and his family as he recovers from the serious leg injuries sustained in a car crash in Los Angeles. Woods had hoped to be ready to play in The Masters in April but that is clearly now not going to happen. By all accounts, the 45-year-old was lucky to survive the accident and now faces a long haul. There must be serious doubts about whether he will ever again be able to play the game at the highest level. But Woods is nothing if not a fighter and the response to his accident tells you all you need to know about the esteem in which he has held. As you would expect, there were countless messages of support from his fellow players but world leaders and leading individuals from all sports also took to social media to wish him well.
IT IS never pleasant watch a golfer struggling, especially when that player is one of the most promising on the PGA Tour. Matthew Wolff, who performed so admirably in the majors in 2020, withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open after a round of 78. He cited a wrist injury that was almost certainly sustained when he thumped his club into the ground in anger. And after an opening round of 83 at the WGC Workday at The Concession, he withdrew once again. During his round playing partner Shane Lowry had to ask Wolff to stop moving around on the green while Lowry was putting. Some players have suffered more than others during lockdown and it seems that long periods in isolation have finally caught up with the young American. Incredibly, he managed four birdies in that round of 83, but spent much of the round trailing his playing partners by as much as 100 yards and walking off greens while they were still putting out. On the sixth green he even accidentally hit his ball while practicing his putting stroke. Unsurprisingly, Wolff refused to speak to the media afterwards. It is to be hoped that he gets his head straight quickly.
Rory McIlroy will be hoping that his first performance on the PGA Tour after being elected chairman of the Player Advisory Council is not an indication of things to come. In the same week that the Northern Irishman effectively became the mouthpiece for his peers he only went and missed the cut at the Riviera. It was the first time he had missed the cut since The Open Championship at Royal Portrush way back in July 2019.
AS WE turn our thoughts to the return of the game we all love, it has emerged that Luton Borough Council is planning to shut Stockwood Park Golf Centre - a move that has attracted widespread opposition. The centre boats an 18-hole course, a par-three course and a 21-bay driving range. The council wants to close it to make up a shortfall in income from other areas, including Luton Airport, which has suffered a significant drop in revenue during the pandemic. Paul Hulme, the club captain, said: “I am disgusted that during a pandemic, when golf participation is on the rise and we need green space more than ever, the council is considering closing such a valuable asset to the people of Luton. Stockwood Park Golf Centre has over 250 members and attracts business from many golfing groups and casual players from a wide area.
"If the course is closed, the council is reinforcing the prejudice that golf is a game reserved for old, rich, white men. Golf is a sport for life and should not be reserved for the elite. Stockwood Park provides a public golf course accessible to all ages and backgrounds, where tens of thousands have taken up the sport over the last 50 years.”
A statement from council said: “The council is drawing up potential savings due to a significant shortfall in its budget due to a collapse in passenger numbers at Luton Airport, which is a major source of income for the council and revenue support for Active Luton. As a direct result of the impact of the coronavirus shutdown, the council is focused particularly on the future operation of the Golf Centre at Stockwood Park. This includes the 18-hole course, the 9-hole course and the clubhouse building.” An online petition has already attracted thousands of signatures but this should act as a reminder to us all of the extraordinary times in which we are living.
BUT it is not all doom and gloom. According to The Golf Business, two entrepreneurs from Cheshire have purchased a Donald Steel-designed 18-hole golf club in Yorkshire as well as another nearby golf facility. Jonathan and Lynn Spencer have bought the 39-year-old Boothferry Golf Club together with the adjacent Howden Footgolf and Driving Range, which includes a nine-hole golf course. The sale, for an undisclosed price, was conducted on behalf of the owners who themselves acquired the businesses from East Riding of Yorkshire Council in 2005. Boothferry Golf Club was developed by the former Boothferry Borough Council on land that had, in the early 1920s, been the site of the development of the ill-fated R38 airship, and in the late 1920s the construction by Barnes Wallis of the R100 airship. Opening in 1982, the par 73 course extends to 6,651 yards. The adjacent former ‘Eagles’ centre operation comprises a 20-bay driving range, a nie-hole par 30 course and two footgolf courses.
APPROXIMATELY 10,000 spectators per day will be allowed to attend this year’s US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island from May 20-23 as life slowly begins to return to some kind of normality. The tournament was already sold out and those chosen to attend will be selected by ballot, with everybody else receiving a full refund. “We are excited to welcome spectators back to the PGA Championship in a way that is responsible and aligned with current health protocols,” said PGA of America president Jim Richerson. “While we wish that we could accommodate the sell-out crowds who had bought tickets, the 2021 championship will be steeped in gratitude as the best players in the world compete at Kiawah Island. We have staged three unforgettable events there - the 1991 Ryder Cup, 2007 Senior PGA and 2012 PGA Championship - and are so excited to pen the next chapter in May. While crowds will be smaller than originally planned, we know the passion for golf in the area will create a memorable atmosphere.” Face coverings will be required at all times for all spectators, staff and volunteers, including those who have been vaccinated. There are also going to be spectators at The Masters in April. It is to be profoundly hoped that none of this is premature.
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