News & Opinion

PGA Tour's return will mean more to us than to touring pros

Pro golf's re-emergence from coronavirus pandemic signals to everybody, from recreational players to golf-industry workers to first responders, that our collective effort has been worth it

In the grand scheme, a golf tournament doesn’t seem to mean much at the moment, and from a number of perspectives, maybe it doesn’t. But if the PGA Tour truly does return in mid-June at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, it will serve as an important mile marker on this country’s road to recovery from coronavirus.

Golf is the perfect sport to be first to return, not simply because of its logistics and the way it’s played but for its integrity and the American ideal of hard work equals success. But professional golf’s re-emergence is not for the players or officials or tournament sponsors or people who work in television. It’s way more than that.

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The return of professional golf in mid-June will fill an even bigger void for those of us outside of the ropes than for the players.

Most importantly, this is for the health-care workers and first responders who have put their health and lives at risk on the front lines of this gruesome pandemic. If we can have a big event safely, their tireless struggle clearing the path that is strewn with disease and death makes it possible for us to celebrate life again.

It’s for the 18-handicappers and the scratch golfers. It’s for the tournament players and the ones who play in a charity scramble twice a year. It’s for the weekend warriors and those who get dragged out by their buddies once a month. It’s for the retirees who play nearly every day and for people who can’t ever seem to get enough golf.

It’s for the head pros and the assistants who start work at dawn and close up in the dark. It’s for the pros who log 10 hours a day teaching on the range. It’s for the starters and rangers and the guys who take care of the carts. It’s for the people who work in the pro shop and the restaurant and snack bar. It’s for the greens superintendents and the guys on the mowers and manning the rakes and shovels.

It’s for the working people who record the Golf Channel coverage and watch it after dinner at night. It’s for the Saturday morning golf radio shows and whoever might be listening. It’s for the men and women who sell clubs, balls, shoes, gloves and tees at your local retailer or golf shop.

It’s for the people who still write about golf in your local newspaper or golf publication. And it’s for the people who cover the game for national magazines – print and digital – and websites.

It’s for everyone in the grassroots of the game who love golf and what it means to us. Practically everyone who plays avidly knows that no matter how desperate our individual games look on the outside, we have hope, even if it’s just a sliver.

And isn’t that a perfect reflection of the gloomy, unsettling times in which we live? Don’t touring pros tell us that we’re always one swing away from playing well again?

It means that with a big event, we can be one step closer to getting things back to a place that sounds and feels familiar. We’re not talking about normal because no one knows what that will look like for the short term or longer. But someplace that brings us a degree of comfort.

Sports relieve the discomfort that has been gnawing at us slowly and silently but relentlessly over these weeks. It gives us a way to lose ourselves, our uncertainties, worries and fears for a few hours while we immerse in the highs and lows of an athletic contest.

Yes, it will be strange that no galleries will be following the players down the stretch in the final round at Colonial and for the next three PGA Tour events. But maybe you can help fill that stay-at-home gap. Text and e-mail your buddies, your club members, your dogfight group. Put together a massive Zoom call on Sunday and watch the tournament with your laptop actually in your lap.

Cheer for your favorite player(s) and for the shots and putts that mean something on the back nine. While no one will be there in person, all of you collectively will be a gallery that reflects the world around us in every direction.

You represent the world of golf, no matter how well or poorly you play. The Charles Schwab Challenge will not stop the virus nor cure the disease associated with it. Tour players and whoever happens to win that week won’t change the world.

But it doesn’t mean the return of professional golf is insignificant. Not by a long shot.

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