You probably remember the USGA commercial.
Golf course. Torrential rain falling. Two soaked golfers sit on a bench in a shelter that is being pelted by the downpour. On the right is a guy who looks miserable, shoulders slumped.
The Eternal Optimist Golfer is on the right. “This is just gonna pass right on through,” he exclaims absurdly. “Give it ten minutes, it’s gonna be a drizzle!”
That’s the role Jay Monahan played on Thursday. Having already caught some flack for letting spectators attend the first round of the Players Championship, the decision to play the final three rounds of the tournament without crowds seemed like a workable compromise.
For about ten hours, anyway. As the metaphoric rain beat down harder - the NCAA and professional baseball, hockey, tennis, soccer and the XFL all suspended their schedules, following the lead of the NBA Wednesday night - the optics of professional golf soldiering on amid the world’s escalating concerns about the coronavirus grew more untenable by the hour. On Thursday night, Monahan gave up the ghost, officially canceling all PGA Tour events through the Valero Texas Open.
Then, Friday morning, Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley announced the Masters will not be played at its scheduled date, either.
Where does that leave us regular golfers, then?
I’d be lying if I said I had a definitive answer. In strange and frustrating times (getting stranger every year, it seems), I try to lean on poet George Herbert’s quote, “Living well is the best revenge.”
Can we exact revenge on a disease? Probably not, but we can’t be completely ruled by it either, if we can help it.
As millions of people are faced with work-from-home mandates and general business slowdowns as well as improving weather throughout the country over the coming weeks and months, who’s to say the golf course cannot become a refuge of some sort?
I went to my local course’s practice range after the news that March Madness, my favorite non-golf sporting event, had been canceled. I had to escape the feeling of being unmoored from the temporary blissful escape sports offers. Several others seemed to have the same idea, but there was a lot more distance between us than usual on the flat, broad tee. Nevertheless, we swatted range balls as we would on any other warm Florida afternoon.
Golf just might be better suited to relieving us from constantly dwelling on this pandemic than others. After all, a foursome on foot can easily enjoy each other’s company while keeping a safe physical distance apart at all times during a round. If that is enough to be safe, then only the tradition of a post-round handshake would need to be suspended. Everything else about the social and local game could proceed relatively unchanged, it seems.
With any luck, this downpour of an illness will recede to a drizzle soon, and the golfers we idolize can get back onto the best courses and our television screens. Until then, it may be up to the rest of us to keep the greens occupied and our spirits up.