The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, May 28, 2020
LPGA realities — Interview with Lexi Thompson — Must-click links in women's golf
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The LPGA informed its athletes about a month ago that they are targeting a mid-July restart date. Although the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, a team event originally scheduled for July 15-18 was canceled, the schedule is currently set to begin not long after that at the Marathon Classic, July 23-26.
What’s interesting as well are the two tournaments following Marathon—the LPGA’s first major, the Evian Championship, the Ladies Scottish Open, and the British Open, all currently slated for August. And all obviously across the pond, requiring international travel for many.
Speaking of travel, the United States government recently signed an order that will allow professional athletes, including LPGA and PGA Tour players along with their essential staff and dependents, to enter the United States. This order will allow international athletes an exemption from entry restrictions that were established for non-U.S. residents as a result of COVID-19. Athletes will still face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
While this is amazing news for players currently at home abroad, what about traveling from the United States into Europe, where the LPGA is supposed to be in two short months from now? They will obviously face quarantine restrictions going into another country. So then what? Do they go two weeks before the event? What happens if one of them tests positive or run into travel issues along the way?
Maybe these seem like silly questions. After all, it appears that PGA Tour players will have access to testing and private travel to eliminate these concerns. In a recent memo to its players, the PGA Tour laid out its plans for chartered air travel once tournaments start back up again. There will be 114 seats available on a Boeing 737 (as first reported by Golf Channel) that will transport players and caddies on Monday from the site of the previous tournament to the next one. Center seats will not be used to account for social distancing protocols, so seats are limited.
Golf Digest also reported that, after the third round of the tournament, players will be required to take a saliva test for COVID-19. Only those with negative results will be allowed back on the flight. Everyone on board will also be required to wear a facial covering. Given most fields are 144 players, there will be more players than seats available. At a price of $600 for PGA Tour players and $300 for members of the Korn Ferry Tour, it seems like many will (and should) jump at that opportunity.
There is no doubt the measures the PGA Tour has gone to to protect its players and caddies for resuming play is commendable. From what we know, it all sounds safe and smart. Not to state the obvious—but this also probably costs a lot of money and requires a lot of resources to pull off. This is ultimately why they can resume next week already at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. And for the LPGA? Events are still being canceled. The targeted start date of mid-July feels unlikely.
The tones of the two tours are in vastly different stages as I write this today. While the LPGA is scrambling to keep events on the schedule, the PGA Tour has solutions to allow play to resume. Though no fault of Mike Whan’s or the LPGA’s, it makes me sad that the women don’t have these options at this point. There are no private charters being offered. There are no plans (that have been communicated) for testing to be done on-site. Sometimes it is hard for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I really can’t imagine being in the shoes of someone like Mike Whan and other LPGA staffers who play integral roles in building out the LPGA’s schedule.
Whan’s priorities seems to be making sure that COVID-19 doesn’t affect anyone’s career. It is surely affecting the 2020 season, but the changes they’ve made to the schedule, rankings, exemptions, etc. are being set up to not diminish careers. He’s also been extremely optimistic in terms of the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Although sponsors and events have their backs against the walls in the current environment, prize money will be up down the line and, thankfully, they are still committed to the future.
“…And not knowing exactly when we’ll play, what will happen with travel restrictions; knowing that there will still be changes, we really felt that the right thing to do was make sure that while COVID-19 is going to affect 2020 for everybody, it shouldn’t affect your career. And you shouldn’t find yourself back trying to play your way onto a Tour when you probably didn’t get a chance to play your way on or off a Tour in the first place. You’ll essentially have the same priority position in ’21 that you had walking into ’20.” (via LPGA.com)
I hopeful 2021 and 2022 are stronger than ever. As for 2020? I don’t see the LPGA resuming in July. I think a fall schedule starting around September or October is probably a little more realistic. Without the funds and resources that the PGA Tour has access to, to make it a safe environment to operate in, it’s probably hard for the LPGA to feel like they are making the right decision. Something happening to a player isn’t an outcome Mike Whan is willing to live with; rightfully so.
My write-up last week about not including women in the TaylorMade Driving for Charity event, and how annoying that was, comes full circle with this dilemma. It is no secret the LPGA needs all the help they can get, especially now. I love golf because since day one, it has felt like a community. People are just so nice; I don’t have a better way to describe it than that. So it’s frustrating that the LPGA is being left out of these events and the overall buzz/conversations that happens as a result. I thought ‘The Match’ was absolutely incredible. Here’s my tweet about it below that captures my feelings. It was well done, truly.
Outside of Amanda Balionis as a commentator alongside Justin Thomas for The Match, there was no other involvement of women or LPGA players. As noted last week, equality is profitable, and it was another missed opportunity. While anyone sides with this point of view publicly will get shamed for finding a problem with a “charity event,” I will continue to beat this drum loudly and proudly. The LPGA could use a lift. Why not include them? Why not showcase their personalities and talents? The responses back to this asking “Well why doesn’t the LPGA doing something about it? Why don’t they run their own event?”
Well, pal, because that costs money. And if the LPGA can’t even provide testing kits or private charters to events so the 2020 season can resume, then they probably don’t have the funds to produce an extravagant event on national television. That’s all I’m saying. It’s not that easy to just put on an event. The LPGA has far bigger issues to tackle in today’s climate; my point is that it would be nice if these events helped elevate the LPGA product when they need it most. We’re all in this together. But sometimes I feel like the LPGA undeservedly gets swept under the rug and made invisible.
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This Week in Women’s Golf
Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
Golf returned for a charity showcase, but women weren’t invited. (via Power Plays)
It’s Mental Health Month and the LPGA shines light on the app Headspace, which they offer to all players at no cost. (via LPGA.com)
The TaylorMade Driving Relief and The Match were great, but where were the women? (via Golfweek)
LPGA players are permitted to carry their own bags when the season resumes. (via Yahoo Sports)
Georgia Hall takes over the LPGA Twitter for a Q&A session. (via LPGA.com)
World No.1 Jin Young Ko faced World No. 3 Sung Hyun Park in the Hyundai Card Super Match, a skins game to raise money for COVID-19. (via LPGA.com)
England’s Bronte Law reflects on her first LPGA victory at the Pure Silk Championship. (via LPGA.com)
Mike Whan doing whatever he possibly can to make 2021 and 2022 stronger than ever. (via LPGA.com)
LPGA veteran Jane Park is pregnant with her first child. (via LPGA.com)
LPGA rookies relieved as the LPGA extends Tour Card to 2021. (via Sportstar)
Lexi Thompson talks the LPGA’s return and optional caddies. (via Golf Channel)
Morgan Pressel will be one of 16 athletes taking part in the Peloton All-Stars Ride. (via Golf.com)
With no Q-series, a handful of college seniors are now returning to school. (via Golf Channel)
U.S. government clears way for pro golfers and athletes in other countries to return for competition. (via Golf Digest)
There are some LPGA players teeing it up next week at the Texas Women’s Open, and the field is stacked. (via Golfweek)
Four-time LPGA winner Laurie Kane inducted into Canada Sports Hall of Fame. (via Sportsnet)
The #DriveOn story of Symetra Tour player Gabby Lemieux. (via symetratour.com)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Lexi Thompson
In hopes that the LPGA will actually resume in mid-July, let’s check in with Lexi Thompson and hear her perspective on the return golf. You can sort of sense her hopefulness on starting back up in July but even she seems a bit uncertain. Lexi is one of the players I brought up in inviting to play in one of the charity matches too. Both were held in Florida and she’s right down the road—not to mention one of biggest American stars on the LPGA. Fingers crossed we get to see her back in action very soon!
I. On today’s strange climate. Some days it doesn’t seem real. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. I’m lucky because I’m a member at Turtle Creek which is up the road in Martin County, so I’ve been going there quite a bit practicing since everything else was closed. Now Trump International is open so I’ve been going there too. Just working out at home two times a day; staying as busy as I can.
II. On her ShopRite LPGA victory last season (which should be happening this week). Honestly, I played really well that week. I didn’t hit many drivers because it gets super windy there and it’s all about controlling your ball flight. The last day I didn’t look at the leaderboard until the 17 green. I just figured going into that last hole, it’s obviously a birdie hole especially with that down wind, so it was playing pretty short. I ended up eagling it, which I never thought I’d do. On that last putt I just said make sure you get it there and give it a chance. The key was focusing on my own game, staying in the moment and focusing on my routine. It’s a special memory because I made my pro debut there as well.
III. On the LPGA’s return. I would say more that I’m ready to go. There’s a little worry. I’m going to drive as much as I can once we do start going hopefully very soon. But I’m ready. Going into this year, I was saying that I had too little time off; I only had two weeks. Now I ended up having an extra four months off. It’s been too long of a break but very understandable for what’s going on in the world right now. I’m definitely ready. I feel good about my game and I’m ready for competition.
IV. On playing with our without caddies. If caddies are an option, I always want my caddie to be there. I work with Benji Thompson and he’s always my best friend out there and helps me so much. It’s not that I can’t get my own numbers. I don’t carry a yardage book or anything. I just hit it. But I rely a good amount on a caddie just being there for me and helping me through shots. I know I can do it on my own but I just prefer having him by my side.
V. On the strong start to her season and how her game is now. I had a good start to the season in Boca. I worked really hard in the offseason and there were a few swing changes I wanted to work on to get more consistent with my ball striking. It was working really well and I’ve been working on it more now. My game is definitely in a good spot, but I’m just continuing to work on it when we get back going.