May 22 2020
In a normal year about 10,000 golfers play these local events to fill Open slots not already taken by those are exempt from qualifying, such as many PGA Tour members. A smaller but still impressive number of women also compete in similar qualifier tournaments for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open. There are similar play-in events for other USGA Championships such as the Mid-Amateur.
None of that is happening this year, and we have the pandemic to blame.
On May 18 the United States Golf Association updated its 2020 championship schedule, with only four events left on the USGA calendar. Two will take place on their original dates and the other two are reset for later in the year. Six more USGA championships are now cancelled, joining four others that were already eliminated.
The U.S. Open will be held at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York from Sept. 17-20, and the U.S. Women’s Open will take place at Champions Golf Club in Texas from Dec. 10-13.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur comes to the Mid-Atlantic Aug. 3-9 at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, MD, and the U.S. Amateur begins the week after at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.
In the press release announcing the changes, USGA senior managing director John Bodenhamer said, “Throughout this process, our primary focus has been the safety and well-being of everyone involved, including our players, volunteers, host club representatives and staff. We have not taken these decisions lightly and wish we had more options. But with a continued, keen interest in doing what is best for all involved, although we are extremely disappointed, this is the right decision.”
The USGA also announced there will be no qualifying tournaments in the weeks ahead to fill the fields for the four remaining championships. The announcement said there would be an expansion of the exemption system to replace the qualifiers but did not outline how those additional exemptions would be addressed.
The USGA had its reasons for the cancellations, noted in the release: “Given continued health and safety concerns, as well as the potential burden on Allied Golf Associations and the courses scheduled to host qualifying, conducting hundreds of qualifiers across the country for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open was not seen as a viable option.”
Bodenhamer expressed the USGA’s regrets: “As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships. We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for a USGA championship and we deeply regret that they will not have that opportunity this year. But this structure provides the best path forward for us to conduct these championships in 2020.”
The USGA also noted that “Testing and robust health and safety protocols will be in place at each of the four championships.”
That’s great for those who will be there. However, the pandemic dashed the competitive hopes of thousands of elite-level golfers, just as it did for thousands of others seeking to play in similar, now-cancelled tournaments at the state and local level.
That said, the USGA was able to do more for its competitors than the Royal & Ancient in Great Britain. In April the organization cancelled the 2020 Open, its flagship event, which had been scheduled for this July at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England.
More glimpses of a return to normal
During normal years, this would be the time that Cape Region golf clubs sponsor their Demo Days.
Once again, the pandemic screwed up this spring tradition. Local club pros tell me that if they have Demo Days at all, they will most likely be held one company at a time, and with added pandemic safety features to reduce risk.
The Club Champion store in the Christiana area in New Castle County locked down earlier this spring as part of the State’s pandemic response. Unlike Walmart, which also sells golf equipment, the club-fitting company was not deemed “essential.”
Governor Carney’s recent changes to Delaware’s pandemic orders made it possible for Club Champion to re-open, so the company’s Christiana store is back in business. The company is celebrating with a reopening offer of a free fitting with an equipment purchase of $500 or more. Depending on the type of fitting, this could be a savings of up to $350. For more information, go to clubchampiongolf.com.
A rainy day suggestion
Tropical Storm Arthur may hit the Cape Region this weekend. If rain keeps you off the course, Dan Smith’s “Ultimate Guide to Perfecting Your Golf Swing” would be a nice distraction for a half hour of leisurely paced reading. Here is the link: https://www.birdiescrazygolf.com/guides/the-ultimate-guide-to-perfecting-your-golf-swing/.