By Tim Hunt
Contrasting golf tournaments last weekUploaded: Apr 6, 2021
It was striking to see the differences between the PGA tour and the LPGA tour events on Sunday.
The Texas Valero Open, played in San Antonio, had spectators following the competitors throughout the event. That reflected Texas’ status as a state with no mask mandates (some were wearing masks) and a state that is open without restrictions. Tournament organizers did limit the crowd size and suspended complimentary admission programs for first responders, military vets and children.
By contrast, the LPGA’s first major of the season, the ANA Inspiration at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage was devoid of spectators. There were players, caddies, officials and volunteers. Spectating was limited to homeowners looking at the fairways and greens from their patios in the scenic Coachella Valley.
The golf in both places was excellent. Native Texan Jordan Spieth returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since July 2017 in San Antonio, setting himself up for a run at the Master’s title this week in Augusta, Ga.
Down in the California desert, 21-year-old Patty Tavatanakit led throughout the tournament and held off Lydia Ko, who tied the course record with a 62, for her first LPGA victory. In normal times, the crowd would have been going wild when Ko opened with a 29 on the front nine. Instead, it was quiet in the desert and, with 100 degree temperatures, perhaps a day better spent in the swimming pool or in front of the television in an air-conditioned room.
That said, it was unfortunate that the world’s best women golfers could not receive the in-person support that they deserved. Sprawling Riverside County is still in the red tier (we’re in the orange tier in Alameda County) so given the amount of time it would have taken to prepare for spectators at the tournament, the decision is reasonable.
It’s notable to compare Gov. Newsom aggressive shutdown with that in Florida. The governor conveniently started to ease shutdowns, including the ban on high school athletics, when recall proponents started to submit enough signatures so he likely will face an election this fall.
Reading some national business news, I saw an interview with the tourism director for Orlando, also home of many theme parks that are international draws. Those parks re-opened in a limited way in July 2020. Disneyland in Anaheim is scheduled for an April 30 reopening.
It’s entirely fair to ask whether it was worth it. As I have written, the aggressive shutdowns will have lasting health, educational and economic impacts. Most public health officials seemed to be only concerned with COVID 19 and did not consider the other impacts.
There needs to be a careful post-mortem examination that can guide future decision makers because at some point there will be another pandemic—hopefully not in our lifetimes.