News & Opinion

Ban golf during a pandemic? Not on Cactus Tour

Waste Management Phoenix Open
A few cacti on course during the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, TPC Scottsdale, Phoenix, USA. 29/01/2020 Picture: Golffile | Phil INGLIS All photo usage must carry mandatory copyright credit (© Golffile | Phil Inglis)

Women’s satellite tour begins 3-day tournament today in Phoenix with a few name players whom you might recognize and some logic that you might not

I thought that once the PGA Tour and LPGA decided to close down for the foreseeable future and do the responsible thing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that smaller tours would follow suit.

I was wrong.

On Tuesday, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook put out betting lines for an event in Louisiana on the All Pro Tour, a men’s satellite tour, and the Cactus Tour, a women’s satellite circuit played mostly in Arizona.

When I contacted the All Pro Tour, an official said that the tour already had canceled its event. However, the Cactus Tour not only has decided to play its March 18-20 Moon Valley Tournament in Phoenix but to complete its 23-event season, which runs into early August, tour director Mike Brown said.

Brown gave me the tried-and-true answer about how the 33 women who were entered are independent contractors and that they would be out playing golf anyway, so they’d might as well try to earn a few bucks in the process.

Brown also pointed to Arizona’s primary election being held Tuesday, with the implication being that if democracy can proceed amid a pandemic, then why not tournament golf?

As I listened to his reasoning for conducting an event, it made me realize what those officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public-health and government organizations have been grappling with during the coronavirus pandemic: the utter disregard for the safety of the population. In short, the belief that if a person doesn’t feel sick, then it’s OK for him or her to live life to the fullest.

It’s easy to argue that being outside on a golf course is different, and I would agree that logic supports that position, to a point. But when you have competitors, officials, potentially caddies and others together, then it’s no longer about a twosome, threesome or foursome. It’s a cluster of people who at some point will not be exercising the government-recommended policy of “social distancing” to reduce the possibility that the virus will be spread.

It’s hard to tell whether it is arrogance, ignorance or a combination. For the golfers to compete on the Cactus Tour while even a slight chance exists to spread the virus is irresponsible.

There are some former or current LPGA players entered, notably: Mina Harigae, Haley Moore, Anna Nordqvist, Amy Olson, Alena Sharp and Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods' niece. Cactus Tour purses range from about $5,000 to about $20,000, with $2,000 to $4,000 to the winner, based on entries, according to the tour’s website. Because of the pandemic, the LPGA has canceled six tournaments, through early April.

While I recognize that the women, like touring professionals everywhere, are independent contractors, I would hope that they would understand their potential effect on humanity and the wrong message that they are sending to the world by competing.

It’s true that sport can be one of the best distractions for a stressed world, but this is one of those rare times when the game needs to pause.

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