So what did you do during lockdown? Learn a new skill? Renovate your house? Finally tackle those long-put-aside jobs? I’m sure it was all very laudable but spare a moment for last week’s winner on the PGA Tour, Michael Thompson. How many of us lived through a lockdown like his?
Thompson’s only previous win on tour was the 2013 Honda Classic. He subsequently endured a little bit of the typical rollercoaster of the life of a professional sportsman over the next few years but continued grinding and working hard. A bogey-free 68 in the first round of the Players’ Championship was more than promising but that was destined to be wiped from the record books as golf shut down because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The following week Thompson and his wife Rachel travelled to Kansas, rented an Airbnb house in Wichita and settled down to await the birth of their adopted baby daughter. In the US the birth mother chooses the adoptive parents for her child and the Thompsons had already undergone the same process for their now three-year old son. In the course of their tortuous adoption journeys, they had suffered three devastating late rejections from birth mothers, so stressful doesn’t begin to describe how they felt. However, it was all worth it as they welcomed Laurel Marie into their lives, a sister for Joshua.Thompson struggled to put the whole enormity of the situation into words: “I think the greatest thing about adoption is it’s one of the ultimate signs of love to bring somebody who’s not your own blood into your family and raise them. It’s hard to put it into words. My biggest fear as a father was not bonding with the child, whoever that was. As most parents know, as soon as you hold that baby in your arms it’s instant love. And it was the same for me even though my kids are not biologically my own, they’re still my kids. It’s just a really awesome experience.”
The family is still in Kansas, ploughing through the legalities of the adoption process which has somewhat slowed down due to COVID-19. Shortly, however, they will be making the long drive back to their home in Sea Island, Georgia. Meanwhile Dad’s second win on tour at the 3M Open means he can prepare for the logjam of majors that will be coming along in the next twelve months, pandemic permitting. He is exempt into every single one of them and has job security for the next couple of years.
This week the LPGA is emerging from lockdown, a good couple of months after their male counterparts, with the @LPGA Drive On Championship in Toledo, Ohio. Mike Whan, the charismatic commissioner of the tour, has had the benefit of observing the teething troubles of the men’s tour in this new world. He has some challenges, however, that are not faced by Jay Monahan and the men’s tour.
There simply isn’t the same amount of money sloshing around in the coffers, thus it’s imperative that pro-ams are a part of the women’s tournament weeks which means preparing to let 100-plus amateurs into the protective “bubble”. Quite how this will pan out remains to be seen but there is no doubt that increasing the numbers on site increases the risk. If the tour doesn’t allow this, it is difficult for them to make the forthcoming weeks commercially viable, so Whan must surely be anxious as he navigates through his first post-lockdown tournament.Meanwhile, the Ladies’ European Tour (LET) have another couple of weeks before their first, fully-fledged, back-to-back tournaments take place, namely the Aberdeen Standards Investments Ladies’ Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, followed by the newly-named AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon. This is the first sighting of the top-class women’s professional game in Scotland since last year’s stunning Solheim Cup victory at Gleneagles. It is much needed as the lockdown has been particularly cruel for the LET, coming as it did hard on the heels of an exciting new partnership with the LPGA and news of vastly increased playing opportunities for the members.
What is encouraging, however, is the creation of various smaller tournaments designed to help elite and professional players get some competitive edge ahead of the opening up of their respective tours. Justin Rose and his wife Kate have provided sponsorship and support for a series of Thursday events which have given purpose to many a player’s practice regime.. And Team Ireland has organised competitive play for cash for a select number of their elite players, with men and women competing together. The collective will of so many different organisations to work together and pool resources in these difficult times is one positive to have emerged in the last few months.
But, sadly, it appears that some things never change.
Shame on you Gullane golf club.