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Three Takeaways From the PGA’s Socially Distanced Comeback

By / Jun 17, 2020 (NATTAWUT/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The pro golf league held a tournament over the weekend with no fans and ample amounts of testing equipment. The result was a major success that others can follow.

Slowly but surely, a number of major sports are taking steps to put on events for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis began.

It has not been easy, but some have managed to pull it off. One of the earliest success stories has been the PGA Tour, which held the Charles Schwab Challenge over the weekend, with 16 of the world’s 20 top golfers represented at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. The tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, called it a major success.

“There is more work to be done, but this is a phenomenal start to our return. There’s no question about it,” he said, according to Reuters. ”It’s gone about as well as we could have hoped for. I’m proud of our team for that.”

So, what did they do right, and what can associations learn? A few takeaways:

Consider the nature of the event. Unlike many events that were canceled, golf has many elements that work favorably compared to other sports. For one thing, it’s held outside; for another, physical contact is limited. “Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, a sport that inherently has distancing and is not played with a shared ball can proceed in these unusual times,” noted ESPN.com Senior Golf Writer Bob Harig. “This was an excellent first tournament back, and tweaks can continue to be made to assure a safe environment with a competitive atmosphere.” Those trying to hold events may find the best chance of success when outdoor venues are used and physical contact is limited.

Have a plan at the ready. The PGA Tour planned protocols for the tournament more than a month in advance, which involved building a “bubble” that isolated participants from the broader public. Officials and employees were given daily tests of nasal swabs and saliva, along with daily questionnaires and screenings. After testing, players are allowed to practice while waiting for results, which will take between one and two days to arrive and the PGA hopes to cut over time. However, if circumstances are unfavorable, the organizers will not oppose cancellations. “While we believe we have created an extremely comprehensive health and safety plan, we will not play if we do not feel we can provide a safe and healthy environment for all constituents,” a PGA Tour memo stated.

Share lessons with your peers. With sports leagues such as the NBA and possibly Major League Baseball hoping to pick back up in the coming weeks, details of specific successes and failures can assist with improving the situation with everyone involved. In comments to NBC Golf, Monahan noted he planned to share the week’s lessons—which included 487 negative tests—with other sports leagues. “I know there’s a lot of people that are watching us, and hopefully they’re proud of what’s been done here,” he added.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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