A COVID-19 Charles Schwab Challenge

first_imgLife in Fort Worth printThis is one in a series of stories that examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted systemic issues through the Fault Lines of race, class, gender, generation, geography and sexual orientation. Loading 50%A COVID-19 Charles Schwab ChallengeBy Branson NelsonOne entrance to the grounds at Colonial Country Club sitting vacant with no patrons entering during Sunday’s fourth round of the Charles Schwab Challenge. (Photo by Branson Nelson) One entrance to the grounds at Colonial Country Club sitting vacant with no patrons entering during Sunday’s fourth round of the Charles Schwab Challenge. (Photo by Branson Nelson) Save a few distant cheers from onlookers peering through fences or clapping from make-shift grandstands at nearby homes, Colonial Country Club was eerily quiet during the Charles Schwab Challenge in June. Logistically, the 2020 rendition of the Charles Schwab Challenge was one for the record books. COVID-19’s effects were palpable even before the first tee shot. The 12 weeks leading up to the tournament were filled with contingency plans.Tournament staff were not sure if fans would be present, and if so, for what type of capacity the club would need to prepare. The necessary precautions that would need to be taken were somewhat unclear until the tournament approached.Tournament director Michael Tothe, in that role since 2008, and his staff worked alongside the PGA Tour over the past several months. “When we first agreed that the tournament was going to happen in June, we didn’t know if we would have fans or no fans,” Tothe said. “We tried to balance out a number of different scenarios.”When the final decision was made, one that eliminated any possibility of having fans, a clear vision of what the tournament would look like began to emerge. “Once we realized there would be no fans, no corporate hospitality, no events, it made things a lot easier for us as it relates to focusing on player safety,” Tothe said. “We really shifted our attention from building fan enhancement venues, selling tickets, and executing Pro-Ams to safety protocol.”The hush of no crowdsJust down the street from Texas Christian University, the Horned Frogs had three of former golfers in the field: Franklin Corpening, Tom Hoge and J.J. Henry all failed to make the cut. “I played with Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer in a practice round on Tuesday,” Corpening said. “Usually we would have had a pretty big following of about 100 people watching us play.”I would have been pretty nervous for that, but this year it felt so different because there was nobody out there.”All players, caddies and crucial PGA and tournament staff were inside a “bubble.” They were all tested for COVID-19 at Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena during the several days before the tournament began. Off the course, protocols were put in place to ensure social distancing in common areas like player dining rooms and the locker rooms. For Corpening, though, a few on-the-course changes stuck out.“There was a sanitizing station after every hole, which was really weird,” Corpening said. “Another odd deal was at the driving range. For me, I always love going to the range and people are there wanting autographs or a golf ball, but this year there was nothing going on at the range.”Most years, Colonial hires part-time employees specifically for jobs throughout the weeks leading up to and through the tournament. Even more volunteers sign on in roles that are needed to facilitate a PGA event.“This year, we only hired a handful of non-full-time staff, but we were really able to execute the golf tournament with the majority of our existing staff,” Tothe said. “We went from our usual 1,600 volunteers down to about 400 total.”In the communityPrecautions taken due to COVID-19 were felt well beyond the grounds of Colonial Country Club. The tournament usually comes with warnings to avoid South University Drive, and the side streets leading to the club are often choked with traffic. “I have always lived in the neighborhood surrounding the club, and it is just a known fact that there will be tons of traffic the week of the tournament,” Austin Westermann said. “This year, though, if you didn’t know any better you would have had no idea that there was a PGA Tour tournament going on.”Many Colonial members take pride in the club playing host to one of the most iconic golf tournaments on the PGA Tour. But this year, they lost the chance to walk the grounds watching some of the world’s best golfers. “As a member, I always love getting to walk the course and see some of the best golfers in the world play the same course that I play regularly,” said Carson Pate. “I look forward to attending the tournament every May, and not having that opportunity this year, especially with one of the best fields the tournament has ever had, was disappointing.”Memorable momentsStill, the restart of the 2020 PGA Tour season will likely be remembered in Fort Worth for years to come.A tip of the cap to locals Palmer and Henry kicked off the event Thursday morning as the two took the first shots of the tournament on the first and tenth tees at 6:50 a.m.During the opening round, South Korean golfer Sung Kang made an ace at the par-3 13th. Of course without roars from fans around the green, he didn’t realize it walking halfway to the hole. This is kind of awesome. Sung Kang knocked in a hole-in-one at the @CSChallengeFW on Thursday, but without fans, he had no idea he had an ace until he reached the green. pic.twitter.com/Ik8mwvgEBk— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) June 15, 2020 On Sunday, fans watching on TV were treated to a packed leaderboard full of some of the most talented names in the sport. Daniel Berger stormed back to force a playoff against impressive young golfer Collin Morikawa. But there were no low “ooo’s” after Morikawa lipped out a par putt from inside five feet or raucous cheers as Berger received the patented red plaid jacket given away to Colonial champs.Daniel Berger (+5000) wins the Charles Schwab Challenge Collin Morikawa missed this putt in the playoff to end it (via @PGATOUR) pic.twitter.com/2ZBzdxK8Sr— br_betting (@br_betting) June 14, 2020 Fans built a makeshift grandstand in order to watch the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge from their own front yard. (Photo: Branson Nelson) Fans built a makeshift grandstand in order to watch the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge from their own front yard. (Photo: Branson Nelson) Brooks Koepka prepares to hit his third shot after an errant shot left him behind the green on the first hole during the second round on Friday. (Photo: Garrett Podell) Brooks Koepka prepares to hit his third shot after an errant shot left him behind the green on the first hole during the second round on Friday. (Photo: Garrett Podell) Few people outside of golfers, caddies, and essential personnel were allowed into Colonial Country Club. Those who were involved were tested for COVID-19 and had to adhere to social distancing protocol (Photo: Branson Nelson) Few people outside of golfers, caddies, and essential personnel were allowed into Colonial Country Club. Those who were involved were tested for COVID-19 and had to adhere to social distancing protocol (Photo: Branson Nelson) Phil Mickelson takes a practice swing before teeing off on the second hole during Friday’s second round. (Photo: Garrett Podell)Phil Mickelson takes a practice swing before teeing off on the second hole during Friday’s second round. (Photo: Garrett Podell)A usually traffic-filled University Drive on TCU’s campus on the Sunday of the tournament looks as normal as any June weekend afternoon. (Photo: Branson Nelson) A usually traffic-filled University Drive on TCU’s campus on the Sunday of the tournament looks as normal as any June weekend afternoon. (Photo: Branson Nelson) TopBuilt with Shorthand ReddIt A fox’s tail: the story of TCU’s campus foxes Facebook Women’s golf’s Bruner sets record at ICON Invitational Branson Nelson Fans built a makeshift grandstand in order to watch the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge from their own front yard. 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