With the LPGA set to host its second major of the year this week in the California desert, commissioner Mike Whan is ready to get back to a sense of normal operations – even if it’s still months away.
Speaking with media ahead of the ANA Inspiration, Whan admitted that one of the most popular questions he faces right now from players surrounds scheduling: both what the rest of this year will look like and how next year’s calendar is shaping up. While he’s proud to note that no 2021 tournament title sponsors have left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Whan shared that playing schedule over the next few months is not yet set in stone.
The LPGA typically plays its Asian swing in the fall, but Whan is not optimistic that any LPGA events will be played this year on the continent. Tournaments in China and Taiwan have already been scrapped, and he doesn’t expect scheduled events in Japan or South Korea to receive “the green light” from their respective governments in the near future. As a result, he’s planning to add one and possibly two additional “Drive On” events in October while reshuffling the early part of the 2021 schedule to ensure as many domestic events as possible early in the year to avoid any issues with travel-related quarantine mandates.
“We’re currently working on what we call the COVID plan,” Whan said. “Which is, how do we avoid crossing international borders at least through Q1 of 2021 so that we can still get all of our events in and not have these quarantine border crossings, if in fact we’re still dealing with COVID issues even into April and May.”
While he hoped to release a full 2021 schedule this month, Whan now expects to do so in November. Work continues on building contingency options for early-year events, as tournaments are currently prepping for scenarios both with and without fans in attendance. Whan explained that he hasn’t “given up hope” on having fans at events this November or December, then added, “but maybe I should.”
While Whan admits that any return to normalcy will likely hinge on the creation and distribution of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, he remains optimistic that operations can return to their pre-pandemic look and feel by spring.
“We’re hoping that if there’s some health options for us in Q1 of 2021 that we could be back by late Q1 of ’21 into the tournaments the way we want to play them,” Whan said. “Pro-ams, fans and everything else the way that we normally do.”