LPGA restart at Inverness presents a test in every way possible


Angela Stanford had all the feels pulling out of her driveway in Fort Worth, Texas, At long last, after 166 days of no LPGA golf, the 42-year-old was road-tripping to Toledo, Ohio, for back-to-back tournaments. Nervous, excited, anxious. In 20 years on tour, nothing quite prepares a player for competing during a pandemic.

But for all that has changed in this COVID-19 era, one thing remains the same: She’d need clubs to compete. And 15 minutes down the road, Stanford realized that she’d left hers at home. All she could do was laugh and make a U-turn.

“Sad part is I’d been slowly packing the last three nights so I wouldn’t forget anything,” she said.

The LPGA shut down earlier than most tours, in mid-February, due to its spring Asian swing. Commissioner Mike Whan started talking to health ministers about quarantines way back in January. He thought maybe something had gotten lost in translation.

“Isn’t quarantine a military thing?” he asked.

When the tour kicks off this week at the new LPGA Drive On Championship, players and caddies will have taken at least two COVID-19 saliva tests before they hit one shot in competition. The 54-hole event takes place July 31-Aug. 2 and features 135 players. No family and friends are allowed onsite. There’s no locker room. Players were given a debit card to buy food off-property. Masks are worn when not inside the ropes.

“You’re trying to guess who they are just by looking at their eyes,” said Lydia Ko of the summer reunion.

Many of the top-ranked South Korean players chose to skip these two events, as did several British standouts. At the conclusion of next week’s Marathon Classic, players and caddies will take a charter flight from Detroit to Scotland for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the AIG Women’s Open. They’ll then return by charter for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in Arkansas. The first five events on the LPGA schedule will be held without fans.

Three American players ranked inside the top 10 headline the Drive On field: Nelly Korda (No. 2), Danielle Kang (No. 5) and Lexi Thompson (No. 9).

LPGA restart, by the numbers

0 Events top-ranked Jin Young Ko has played in 2020 (Ko is also skipping the next four LPGA tournaments)
3 Number of top-10 American players in Toledo: Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson
4 Events the tour got in before the pandemic hit
6 Number of top-10 players missing from the field (all international)
16 Rookies in the Drive On field
166 Days without LPGA golf since COVID-19 halted play
290 Driving average of tour leader Maia Schecter, a rookie

This week is a preview for the trio as the tournament venue, historic Inverness Club, will host the 2021 Solheim Cup. Bronte Law, a star of last year’s Cup at Gleneagles, called this week a U.S. Open-standard test.

“Especially after not playing in a while,” said Law, “kind of being thrown in at the deep end per se, is something that will definitely be a challenge, but one that I think everyone here is ready for.”

There are 16 rookies in the field including Japan’s Yui Kawamoto, who bucked the trend of Asians staying overseas. More than two dozen media were on hand at the Tokyo airport to send her off earlier this month. Kawamoto began taking English classes over the coronavirus break and released a song on her new YouTube channel to mark the occasion of traveling overseas. The 21-year-old, who once dreamed of becoming a recording artist, covered Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.” The chorus certainly rings true in these times.

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song

“When you’re stepping out of the safe zone,” Kawamoto wrote in an email exchange, “you need the courage to do that. And this song encouraged me.”

Rookie Albane Valenzuela graduated from Stanford during the pandemic, finishing up her last quarter online with family in the Bahamas. She flew to Florida to quarantine for two weeks before heading north to Toledo. The former Olympian got her second negative COVID-19 test back on Tuesday evening. The tests are driven overnight to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., with a turnaround time of 24 to 36 hours.

“I was telling my mom I think it’s the only time in my life where negative is so good,” she said.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *