Golf In A Plague Year June 23: Spectators
The PGA TOUR has for three weeks now been proceeding without spectators. I haven’t missed them. If ever there was a made-for-tv sport, it’s golf.
That said, spectators are fundamental to the business model of the PGA TOUR — perhaps even more than the other major sports. Professional golf tournaments are once-a-year community events, built around supporting local charities. Tournament organizing committees are non-profits, bringing in top golf talent as a fundraising vehicle.
Businesses sponsor these tournaments — and their attached charities — in exchange for material and solidary benefits. Hospitality suites and grandstands allow sponsors to entertain important clients. Corporate names on backdrops, programs and banners let people know that the firm cares about the charities and communities.
Ultimately, without local business participation, spectators and in-person community involvement, the entire model unravels.
The PGA TOUR is at this point scheduled to bring spectators back at The Memorial July 16 – 19.
As an aside, the Ryder Cup is the one Tour event where the crowds absolutely make a difference. I expect the 2020 Ryder Cup to be postponed a year.
No Spectators At PGA Championship
Meanwhile, the PGA of America announced that the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park will be contested without spectators August 3 – 9.
The PGA says that the decision was made in coordination with the state of California and city and county of San Francisco. In other words, officials told the PGA that if they wanted to hold their championship at Harding Park, it would have to be a television only event. The PGA of America had no choice. It is likely too late to relocated to a safer, more friendly venue.
The 2020 PGA Championship – the first in the PGA of America’s landmark 11-year media rights agreement with CBS and ESPN – will feature CBS Sports, ESPN and ESPN+ combining to deliver an unprecedented amount of broadcast and digital coverage.
TPC Harding Park, which is managed by the City’s Recreation and Park Department, is the fourth municipal golf course to host the PGA Championship.
LPGA Returns To Action
The LPGA will return to action July 31 – August 2 for a three-day event without spectators, sponsors or pro-am.
The LPGA Drive On Championship will feature a field of 144 players competing for a $1 million purse. The event will be held at Inverness Club in Toledo as a sort of preview for the 2021 Solheim Cup. The Golf Channel will televise.
The following week, the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana also will be played in Toledo, but this time with spectators.
Originally scheduled for July 23 – 26, the Marathon was rescheduled to accommodate the Drive On Championship.
“Thanks in part to the generosity of our partners who could not reschedule their events in 2020, we are adding a valuable additional playing opportunity for our LPGA Tour members,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “We are so appreciative of our longtime partners, Marathon and Dana, as well as the memberships at Highland Meadows and Inverness, for adjusting their schedules and helping us create a valuable two-week stretch in the Toledo area as we work to safely return to competition. This new event will allow us to test our COVID-19 protocols before we get to welcome back our fans at the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana.”
The plan makes sense. The players can spend two weeks in the same town, while the LPGA figures out what it needs to do to go forward.