How the LPGA plans to handle its return to play, from Ohio to Europe
So what happens if an LPGA player or caddie tests positive at a tournament and is forced to quarantine while on the road?
The challenge will be more daunting than what PGA Tour pros face.
At least 15 times more daunting.
That’s the financial equation women will face if they get sick with COVID-19 when the LPGA makes its scheduled restart in Ohio in three weeks.
The PGA Tour awards members who test positive while following protocols $75,000.
LPGA players were informed in a virtual players’ meeting Wednesday that they will receive $5,000 if they test positive at a tournament site while adhering to tour protocols.
They’ll get $2,500 if they test positive at home following proper procedures.
LPGA caddies will get the same.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and tour operations officer Heather Daly-Donofrio led Wednesday’s meeting. They laid out plans to steer the tour through the coronavirus pandemic in a restart that includes an early European swing.
While the early return of fans may prove to be an issue in Ohio, players learned Wednesday that there’s also a brewing issue over pro-ams.
More on that later.
After returning for the Drive On Championship July 31-Aug. 2 and then the Marathon Classic the following week, the tour is scheduled to travel to Scotland for back-to-back events, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the AIG Women’s British Open.
There are all kinds of challenges for the women going overseas, even with Scotland set to ratify the United Kingdom’s foreign athlete quarantine exemption, which will allow Americans and players from other foreign countries to avoid the 14-day quarantine required upon arriving.
That exemption doesn’t include parents or agents.
That’s a challenge for young players accustomed to traveling with their parents, a fairly common practice in the LPGA ranks.
The Women’s British Open is creating a “bio secure zone” at Royal Troon, allowing only players, caddies and other essential personnel inside the zone, which restricts movement to the course and designated hotel.
No parents will be allowed in that bubble, either.
It raises questions about who will and won’t be showing up when the first major championship of the women’s season is scheduled to be played.
There’s also still some uncertainty over whether the Marathon Classic will go off as planned, with decisions to be made about fans and pro-ams.
The event is scheduled to be the first in the restart to allow fans, but earlier this week the Memorial announced it wouldn’t be allowing fans at its PGA Tour event in Ohio, scheduled two weeks before the restart.
It raises questions about how safe opening gates to the LPGA will be.
Judd Silverman told GolfChannel.com last month that staging the Marathon Classic didn’t make sense financially without fans, saying the community nature of the event, including its corporate entertainment and pro-ams, was vital to its success.
Apparently, pro-ams are as vital as fans.
The Marathon Classic is scheduled to feature five pro-ams.
The LPGA, according to one of the virtual attendees of the players meeting, is pushing back, in an effort to reduce the pro-ams, and to limit player exposure to the virus. The LPGA informed players that it’s a difficult discussion for Marathon, because the pro-ams raise so much money for the event. They’re potentially the difference between the Classic making money or losing money.
Here are other key points addressed in Wednesday’s meetings:
• Testing protocols begin with players and caddies taking at-home saliva tests seven days before their scheduled arrival at a tournament site. If they’re negative for COVID-19, they’re free to travel. Once at the tournament site, on Monday or Tuesday, they’ll undergo a nasal swab test. They will be allowed to use the grounds, but not the clubhouse, while awaiting results. With a negative result, they’ll gain access to the clubhouse. Every day after that, they will undergo thermal screening, with an on-site or on-call doctor available, should a player show symptoms.
• The LPGA is exploring whether to set up a charter flight to take players and caddies from Toledo to Scotland, with a return to the United States for the Walmart NW Arkansas event in Rogers, Arkansas. The tour sent out a survey to gauge interest, with socially distanced seating priced at $1,200 one way for coach, $2,500 for an upgrade. Whan told players a decision could be made anytime between Friday and Monday.