FORT WORTH, Texas — The PGA Tour unveiled a detailed, 37-page health and safety plan outlining the protocols and measures that will be taken at next month’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club.
The idea is to create a “bubble” for players and others associated with the event by isolating them from the general public as much as possible, and encouraging social distancing measures on and off the course. The PGA Tour has already said fans would not be able to attend the tournament, which is scheduled for the week of June 8 with tournament rounds June 11-14.
“While we believe we have created an extremely comprehensive health and safety plan, we will not play if we do not feel we can provide a safe and healthy environment for all constituents,” the PGA Tour said in a memo sent to its players.
The PGA Tour is implementing a layered testing approach, starting with a questionnaire and temperature testing for players, caddies and other essential personnel required to run the tournament.
They will also undergo a RT-PCR nasal swab or saliva test before the tournament with results returned within 48 hours. (Players and caddies traveling to the tournament on the PGA Tour’s chartered flight will undergo a pre-travel test as well.)
While awaiting results, players and caddies may go onsite for practice and play only, but will not be able to access facilities such as the clubhouse or other inside spaces.
Following the initial test, there will be daily questionnaires and temperature screenings.
“We do anticipate a lot of players playing week to week to week in consecutive weeks, and so they’ll be doing a pre-travel test, they’ll be doing a test when they arrive in each market,” said Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration. “We feel that, as our medical advisers do, that one test per week is a significant amount of viral testing, on top of all the layered approach that we’re taking with everything else in our plan.”
In the event of a positive test, the PGA Tour said the individual would be immediately isolated and required to self isolate for a minimum of 10 days. (If a player tests positive after making the cut, they will be barred from completing the tournament and receive last-place earnings)
A PGA Tour official estimated 400 tests would be required for the Colonial. Officials repeatedly emphasized that the Tour would not take resources away from the local community. The Tour will be providing and paying for every test administered to run the event, as well as the costs associated with self-isolation for anyone who tests positive during the event.
The PGA Tour has been in frequent contact with the City of Fort Worth and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center about the testing procedures. “We are confident that we’ll be able to conduct our testing in a manner that is not taking away from the community,” Levinson said. “We will be providing our own supplies and sourcing all of that as well.
“This is an important element to our return to golf and an important element to protecting the health and safety of our players and caddies and those that are traveling week to week, and so it’s something that we’re committed to investing in.”
Along with the testing measures, the PGA Tour will limit the number of people on the grounds. No family members will be allowed to attend the tournament and players will be allowed only limited support personnel such as trainers and swing coaches.
A limited number of media will be allowed to attend the tournament, but work spaces will be spread out to provide proper social distancing. Interviews will take place in a “flash area” with two or three “pool” reporters.
“It will come down to, on the field of play, relying on players and caddies to have that social distancing requirement in the forefront of their minds,” said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief tournaments and competitions officer. “We’ll provide constant reminders.”
The PGA Tour has additional measures they plan to use in order to keep the “bubble” in place.
— The PGA Tour is chartering a flight and encouraging non-local players to travel on it. The chartered flight will have passengers using every other seat.
— Players traveling from abroad will be subject to a 14-day quarantine, per U.S. and local guidelines. Tour officials estimated about 25 players are currently outside the country. “We’re optimistic that we will be able to facilitate their return prior to our return to competition,” Levinson said.
— The PGA Tour is “strongly recommending” players stay at one of the designated hotels, although players are allowed to stay in RVs or rental homes with proper sanitization practices approved by the Tour. Local players and caddies are able to stay at their homes.
— The Tour will be issuing players a “resource guide,” which will detail what is expected of them on and off the course. If off-site protocols are not followed, players will be subject to the PGA Tour’s disciplinary process. However, as Pazder said, “We’re confident that they understand the significant responsibility they carry in making our return very successful.”
— During rounds, players — not caddies — are encouraged to remove and replace golf clubs in their bag and retrieve their golf ball from the hole. Caddies will be allowed to rake bunkers and tend flagsticks, and then wipe each down afterward.
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