MINNEAPOLIS — Pro golfer Troy Merritt’s brother teaches at Spring Lake Park’s Westwood middle school. Merritt’s parents were teachers, as were his aunts and uncles. His cousins are, too.
“We have a lot of teachers in our family,” he said.
Now he is one as well, by necessity, as schools nationwide have been closed by the coronavirus pandemic. Merritt and his wife, Courtney, find themselves home schooling their sons Scout, a second-grader, and Dodge, who’s in kindergarten, in Boise, Idaho.
“I don’t have the patience to be a teacher,” Merritt said, “but I can go ahead and help my kids out at home for sure.”
His PGA Tour is shut down at least until its scheduled return in mid-June in Fort Worth, Texas. July’s British Open was canceled, and the tour’s three remaining major championships are set to be played, starting with the PGA Championship in August and ending with the Masters in November.
The LPGA and PGA Tour Champions revised their schedules. Both plan to return in mid-to-late July, each in Michigan, if COVID-19 allows.
“I’ve been wrong so many times what I think this virus will do,” LPGA Tour player Amy Olson said.
Professional nomads now unusually stuck in one place these past two months, tour players raised in Minnesota or neighboring states have hunkered down at home, wherever that might be and strange as that might be.
“I’m surprised Delta hasn’t called me to see where I’ve been,” said Merritt, who played at Spring Lake Park High and Winona State before he transferred to Boise State.
Golfers’ livelihoods have been disrupted as so many million Americans have been, but this forced break has been a pause unlike any other in their careers.
“I have not slept so well in the last seven years,” said Olson, who was raised near Fargo, played at North Dakota State and turned pro in 2013. “This is the longest time I’ve been in the same time zone. Your body can actually get in a rhythm of falling asleep and waking up naturally, not being in a different time zone every week. That has been great. Not having to pack and unpack has been great.
“I’m on the road 32 weeks a year, so there are a lot of things some people take for granted that I really appreciate.”
Olson and her husband, Grant, a North Dakota State football assistant coach, have used this time since she finished second at the Australian Open in February to spend time at home in Fargo together. Her $118,382 payday was second only to the $244,615 she won for tying for second at the 2018 Evian Championship, an LPGA major.
“I was just hitting my stride,” she said, “but everybody’s in the same boat.”
She and Grant have cooked, cleaned, worked out and done yard work together. They’ve played board games, golf and pickleball. They’ve also established “Two-Step Tuesdays,” when they learn a new country swing dance every week.
She also practiced putting on an artificial-turf hole in her front hallway when the weather was bad. Golf courses in North Dakota never closed, so she’s hit balls and played nine holes occasionally.
“I’ve eaten more home-cooked meals than I have the last 10 years,” said Olson, who in mid-March finished fourth in Phoenix on the lower-level Cactus Tour, which has had weekly events in Arizona.
Winner of nearly $1.5 million in career earnings, Olson played three events before the LPGA suspended its season. Tim Herron, a four-time PGA Tour winner, made his PGA Tour Champions debut in February, and his tie for 18th at the Hoag Classic in his third event was his best finish before tournaments were canceled or postponed.
He’d like to get an exemption if the PGA Tour indeed returns in June at the Colonial Golf Club, where he won in 2006 and has a beautiful plaid jacket to show for it. But he is more likely to resume playing when the Champions tour does July 31.
Herron has played a good bit of golf with his three teenage sons and last month got his boat out of winter storage. He has walked with his wife, Ann, and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cruiser, near their home in the southwestern Minneapolis suburbs. With his family, he played video games and solved jigsaw puzzles before spring arrived.
“I don’t know about the puzzles,” Herron said. “They get me a little frustrated. I’m not very good at puzzles.”
Merritt has played golf and fished at a pond outside town with his boys, and he said he took seriously Idaho’s stay-at-home order that expired Friday.
And he has taught the lessons plans sent by his sons’ teachers.
“My second-grader, we’ve got to get through literature now,” he said one day last month. “They’re reading a book called ‘Tirzah,’ about the Israelites streaming out of Egypt, led by Moses. We’re on chapter six …
“I’m usually not home for a long stretch like this, especially when the weather is nice. It’s just good to be home and help out with schoolwork. I’ve really enjoyed that.”
©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)