If my wee Mum were still here with us, she would be wagging her finger at me and admonishing me to be very, very careful what I wished for! There I was last week bemoaning the amount of golf on television and proclaiming myself largely bored with it all. I even penned a heartfelt “Ugh!” at the thought of every shot of every one of the 156 competitors at The Players’ Championship being available to see on some form of media platform or other. How quickly and how completely the landscape has changed. Now we have nothing but hours and hours of reruns and repeats of tournaments, golf tips and magazine programmes. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to ditch the Sky Sports subscription.A mere week ago the Players was cancelled along with three other tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule, up to, but, at that time, not including, The Masters. Twenty-four hours later came the announcement that the Masters was postponed and three days after that Augusta National Golf Club informed us the club was to be closed completely. This is not as unusual as it may sound because the club shuts each year a few weeks after the Masters tournament and opens again in the autumn.
So, if there is to be a 2020 edition of the Masters it would look like October to November time might be the preferred slot. Miss that, for whatever reason, and I think we’ll move straight to the 2021 tournament. My hunch is the latter will be the result. The iconic colour and perfection of thousands of azaleas would be missing in October and November and no one at Augusta National Golf Cub will wish to unveil their course to the public in anything other than their idea of the perfect state – and I think that means April 2021.Like many of you whose livelihoods depend upon sport my engagingly crowded diary has emptied faster than water down a plughole – the Masters, the PGA and the Madill Trophy, our annual match against the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, are all cancelled or postponed. These events will soon be followed, I’m sure, by the US Open and the Curtis Cup, both June fixtures. The Open at Royal St George’s in July is in jeopardy too. I remember the construction of the stands at Portrush last year started in the first few days of April and we’re not far from that date now. To proceed or not? Tough questions, tough answers and tough decisions. Every one of them affecting thousands of people and businesses. This wretched virus is going to ruin far more people than it kills.
And my hopes of the Ryder Cup in September are also receding. The qualifying period is likely to be decimated but it could still work if we gave the captains twelve picks. I’m not sure 2020 European captain Padraig Harrington, who has reduced his number of picks from four to three, would be a big fan of that but needs must – and it’d be a great, and controversial, talking point. And something to look forward to – we all need that. Perhaps we’ll run a competition later in the year to see who gets all twelve picks correct!One encouraging note in the midst of all this gloom is that golf courses are currently considered one of the safest places to be. Social distancing is obligatory for large lumps of time anyway, simply in order to avoid having your brains beaten out by your playing partners’ whirling actions. Perhaps clubs will partially close (as some have already done), leaving access to locker rooms available. Sure, we’ll miss out on the 19th hole and a lot of the socialising aspect of the game but we’ll still be getting our fresh air and exercise and helping keep depression at bay.
As Dad used to say when we were coming up to serious exam times, “Time to put society on short ration.”
Finally, a bright note in the desert of professional golf. The Ladies’ European Tour managed to complete the Investec South African Women’s Open last Sunday and English rookie Alice Hewson recorded her first victory. It’s a dream start for the former Curtis Cup player. Let’s just hope she doesn’t have too long to wait before she can tee it up as an LET tournament winner.