The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, July 9, 2020
Mixed emotions on LPGA's return— Interview with Jeehae Lee— Must-click links in women's golf
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Mixed emotions upon LPGA’s return
Selfishly, it’s exciting for me and many other golf fans that the LPGA will make its official return in a few short weeks at the LPGA Drive on Championship (July 31-Aug 2) and Marathon Classic (Aug 6-9) in the Toledo, Ohio area. After all, we aren’t the ones jumping on planes week to week and can still be confined to the comfort of our own homes through all of this.
As I started reading up on how exactly this return will look for LPGA players, staff and volunteers, I wondered what it might be like in their shoes. My guess is there are probably a variety of sentiments and emotions floating around about playing golf again. On the one hand, this is their livelihood. This is how they earn money and support themselves and their families. Without golf to look forward to, I’m sure it diminishes their purpose in some ways.
But on the other hand, what is going through the heads of players who maybe have other health issues? How do they feel about traveling, and potentially being exposed to COVID-19, when they have kids and a partner at home? How are the rookies navigating this first-year journey as a professional that hasn’t even really gotten started yet?
Without guests allowed at events like the Scottish and British Open, do you think players who can’t drive, or who rely on parents to help them find their way around, are experiencing some anxiety? And what about caddies—who have arguably the most uncertain jobs in sports—not earning their wages and, as of now, have to stay in expensive hotels so that everyone is quarantined into one vicinity. These are just a few of the things that have crossed my mind as we get ready for golf again.
To get you up to speed on the latest shakeups for the LPGA’s first month back, the biggest news was that The Memorial tournament on the PGA Tour circuit announced that they would no longer be allowing spectators to attend or be having a pro-am. Given this event is also held in Ohio, this isn’t great news for the LPGA. Even though the very first tournament at Invernnes Club won’t have fans, the second one is supposed to.
As Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols reports, this event averages between 2,500 and 5,000 fans a day. And for additional context — The Memorial originally was going to cap the gallery at 8,000 fans. As of today (Thursday afternoon), there is still no official word on what the LPGA will end up doing. What I’m hearing now is that Marathon will limit the event to around 3,000 spectators. It sounds like this event was only agreed upon if fans and a pro-am could be allowed, so I’d imagine they are going to keep pushing.
Something else I didn’t realize is that a lot of players and media (it seems) figured the British Open and Ladies Scottish Open would be canceled. But as of yesterday, in the most recent player meeting with Mike Whan, both are happening. They got the green light, with a lot of required restrictions, to carry on. I’ll do my best to summarize what these two weeks abroad are going to look like for everyone involved.
If tested positive at a tournament, players will receive a $5,000 stipend. If they test positive at home, it will be half that amount.
If a player tests positive after making the cut, she’ll get the equivalent of the last place prize money.
Players who break ‘the bubble’ rules will be fined $2,500 and after a second strike, suspended from playing.
There’s potential for a charter flight from Toledo to Scotland and then from Glasgow to Arkansas (the next event in the United States). They’d cap this at 150 people and would be $1,200 for a coach ticket; $2,500 for business class.
Players who miss cuts may still earn a small stipend to help alleviate expenses. Because everyone has to stay in the same hotel, and can’t share rooms, you can imagine how fast that would add up.
Everyone has to stay in the same hotel.
Players and caddies can’t share rooms or cars. The only exception is a player staying with her own caddy.
I am honestly shocked these events are fair game, but have to give credit to Mike Whan and his team for getting it done. It doesn’t sound like a glamorous life for anyone that will be playing these two events, essentially being limited to your hotel room and the golf course, but at the same time, at least there are tournaments happening now. I have a feeling majority of players are just thankful they get to play again. But that doesn’t mean others aren’t having reservations about playing.
Like I said, it’s just going to be a giant bag of mixed emotions for quite awhile. I remember talking about the LPGA event in Ohio that was announced would have fans a couple months ago, and look where we are today. So much can happen over night that nothing at this point is really promised. I would not be the least bit surprised even if things changed with the Scottish and British, or if we didn’t play with fans for the rest of 2020.
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This Week in Women’s Golf
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One player who competes in the Justin Rose Ladies Series will win a scholarship that will assist them when trying to get LPGA Tour status. (via National Club Golfer)
No fans for the PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament could mean trouble for the LPGA’s event in Toledo. (via Golfweek)
The USGA will lean on world ranking, money lists for Women’s Open. (via Huntingdon Daily News)
Women’s British Open and Ladies Scottish Open are still going to happen next month. (via Golfweek)
Marathon Classic building the strongest field in tournament history. (via Toledo Blade)
Cristie Kerr got to experience the joys of a COVID nasal swab. Here’s how she felt about it. (via Instagram)
Women’s British Open will be played without fans. (via New York Times)
Strict protocols, charter flights and stipends are all in the picture for the LPGA’s return. But some players are still nervous. (via Golf Channel)
In a metaphorical sense, Tiff Joh is a unicorn. Great piece on Tiff Joh’s personal brand and hilarious social media. (via LPGA.com)
Here’s a full breakdown of whole the LPGA will handle its return to golf. (via Golf Channel)
Sarah Burnham wins in Michigan by 10 shots. (via LPGA.com)
Yesterday the PGA announced the Ryder Cup will be postponed until 2021, but that doesn’t impact the 2021 Solheim Cup. (via Toledo Blade)
How Furman University freshman Anna Morgan uses being a goofball to her advantage. (via Greenville News)
The latest Rose Ladies Series winner, Gemma Dryburgh, gives credit where credit is due. (via Bunkered)
After being sidelined by ovarian cancer, PGA Professional Brittany Kelly is eager to return to the game. (via Current)
Ivy League presidents agree to cancel fall sports, including golf. (via Golf Channel)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Jeehae Lee
I had a great chat with Head of Growth Initiatives and Business Development at Toptracer (a division of Topgolf), Jeehae Lee. As most of you know, Topgolf shut down its operations across the country at the start of the pandemic and now they are starting to reopen. We talk about everything but the kitchen sink—and among the highlights are her unorthodox journey in golf, her unwavering love for the industry and what Topgolf is doing for golf culture.
I. How did you get started in golf? My parents introduced me to golf when I was seven. I played junior golf in Korea back in the early 1990’s when girls golf wasn’t really a thing. It was pre-Se Ri Pak era. I was fairly competitive and enjoyed the pressure of it, even though I used to cry on the golf course all the time. I would make a string of bogeys and double bogeys and then my parents would threaten me to take me off the golf course. But yeah, it was my domain, it was my thing…I barely had any top 3s, top 5s, and when I made it to junior world, I thought it was the best thing ever. Fun fact: I’ve never won any golf event in my life. It was a miracle I got my tour card on any tour.
II. Did you play college golf? I played my freshman year because I was recruited at Yale. Obviously there are no scholarships for the Ivy League; we went to Regionals my freshman year. Then I decided I didn’t want to invest that much time into golf while I was at school paying my own tuition. I wanted to do things like going abroad to Chine and being active on campus for various clubs and organizations, so I quit golf completely after my freshman year. I came back to it once I decided on my track after college. My senior spring, I went back and competed, and we went to Regionals again.
III. When you weren’t playing golf, did you miss it? No, I didn’t even think about it to be honest. You know how it is, it was a grind when I was playing. In some ways I resented it growing up because it took me away from other things. You sacrifice a lot to pursue golf at a high level. I was happy to be away from it.
IV. What changed in wanting to turn professional? I missed belonging to something and being competitive. I just felt like I never really gave golf a fair shot. High school I played three months out of the year max, never really had a steady coach, and I was still fairly competitive against girls who dedicate their entire lives to this endeavor. I wondered if it was something I could get really good at if I spent more time and effort and intention. Again, deciding to play out of my own volition, that actually did trigger something. When you want something, and it’s your own decision, I really get fully behind it. That’s what triggered everything.
V. Tell us more about your career with Topgolf. Working at Topgolf has been such an eye opener and a blessing for me, because we truly do open up the access point to golf. Now more than ever, there are so many ways to get into the game of golf if you’re curious about it. And from an industry standpoint too; there are 25,000 people who work for Topgolf. And we’re opening more venues. It’s such a great way to be a part of the industry because we really are growing the game of golf in a way nothing has, other than maybe Tiger Woods in 2000.
My husband, who was a soccer player growing up and played squash at a high level, he is an athlete and he hated the thought of playing golf. He refused to play and couldn’t imagine doing one thing for five hours at a time. But we ended up at a Topgolf event, and he came to support me, hit a few shots. The next morning he woke up and said let’s go play nine…since then, a little over a year and a half ago, he’s logged 100+ rounds. He’s played more golf than I have. We joined a club. He broke 90 a month ago. It’s a real thing, you get more curious and confident about golf at Topgolf.