All professional and college sports in the U.S. scheduled for this Spring have been cancelled due to the spread of the coronavirus, and Georgia’s golf tournament calendar has been particularly impacted.
Shortly after the PGA Tour announced the cancellation of the Players Championship after the first round was played Thursday, Augusta National officials announced the postponement of next month’s Masters.
The other Georgia tour event that has already been cancelled is the Korn Ferry Tour event at the Landings in Savannah that was scheduled to be played April 2-5, the week before the Masters.
Two other Georgia tour stops this Spring were not part of the initial cancellations, but both are in jeopardy considering the current status of the pandemic. The Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf is scheduled for April 17-19, the week after the Masters, and is the first Champions Tour event scheduled to be played after the cancellation of an events in Biloxi in late March.
Also spared from the early spate of cancellations is the Symetra Tour event scheduled for Atlanta National May 7-9. The tour played its first tournament in Florida in early March before the next two scheduled events in California in late March and early April were cancelled. The IOA Invitational, which is scheduled to be played for the fourth time this Spring at the Pete Dye layout in north Fulton County, is the first tournament on the Symetra schedule after the two cancellations.
While the scheduled PGA and Champions Tour events have been cancelled, Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley said the Masters, as well as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip & Putt national finals hosted by the club, have been postponed.
The rescheduling of the women’s amateur and Drive, Chip & Putt events can be arranged with some effort, but it will be a much greater challenge to fit the Masters into a different slot on the PGA Tour schedule this year.
Other than Sept. 3-6, the week after the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake and the week before the 2020-21 season opener at the Greenbrier, there is not an open week on the PGA Tour schedule until the calendar year finale Nov. 19-22 at Sea Island Golf Club.
With just over four months from that point to the 2021 Masters, it is unlikely Augusta National officials would attempt to play that late in 2020, which doesn’t leave an obvious date for re-scheduling.
One novel, if totally implausible possibility, is contingent on Harding Park in San Francisco being unable to host the PGA Championship May 14-17, assuming tournament golf is able to resume by that date. Augusta National, which typically closes for the Summer around that time, could host a combined major that would have the imprimatur of both the PGA and the Masters.
There is the possibility the PGA Championship may have to move to a site more accustomed to hosting major golf events, and the PGA has a candidate in mind, just not Augusta National.
The likelihood of the 2020 PGA Championship being played in Augusta is as close as you can get to zero, but that appears to be the only way Augusta National will be a tournament host in 2020, barring another PGA Tour stop giving or selling its date to the deep-pocketed Augusta National membership. Or the Tour could skip its Asian swing this year and play the Masters in mid-to-late October, by which time the club will have re-opened for the Fall.
It would also be difficult for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic to find a date later this season if April 17-19 is too early to resume tournament play. There are a number of open weeks on the 2020 Champions Tour schedule, but most of them are either the same week as a PGA Tour major or sandwiched around Champions Tour majors. There is an open week April 24-26, but that would only work if Tour officials are assured the virus has almost entirely run its course by then.
The coronavirus has also had a huge impact on golf below the Tour level. College golf has been cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, wiping out a number of Division 1 tournaments in the state.
The annual Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro was on track to be played as late as the day before the tournament was supposed to tee off (Thursday, March 12) at Forest Heights, and was one of the first college tournaments to be cancelled.
The annual Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Lake Oconee, which included five of Georgia’s seven Division 1 programs in the field, was to be played March 20-22 at the Reynolds Landing course. Augusta, one of the teams in the Linger Longer, was to host its own tournament (Haskins Award Invitational) at Forest Hills April 4-5.
Conference championships scheduled in Georgia were the SEC Championship at Sea Island GC April 20-26, the Atlantic Sun at the Legends at Chateau Elan April 19-20 and the Southern Conference at Reynolds Lake Oconee April 19-21.
The Augusta women were set to host their event at Forest Hills this weekend (March 14-15), with Georgia, Georgia State and Mercer also scheduled to host women’s Spring events.
Georgia was to host the long-running Liz Murphey Collegiate March 20-22 at the UGA course. Georgia State was scheduled to host the annual John Kirk/Panther Intercollegiate March 29-31 at Eagle’s Landing, with Mercer to play in the Brickyard Collegiate April 6-7 at the Brickyard GC in Macon.
The lone women’s conference championship set for Georgia was the Atlantic Sun, which was scheduled for April 19-21 at the Legends at Chateau Elan along with the men.
The Georgia PGA schedule was also impacted, with the Section’s annual Spring meeting, scheduled for March 16, and the Pro-Pro Scramble, which was to be played March 17 at Rivermont, both postponed until a date to be determined.
The Georgia PGA Match Play Championship is scheduled to begin play next week, but the deadlines for the completion of each of the first four rounds can be adjusted, with the semifinals and finals scheduled for August 24 at Peachtree GC.
The next tournament on the Georgia PGA schedule is the Senior-Junior Championship, set for May 4 at Bobby Jones GC. The Georgia Senior Open is scheduled for May 11-12 at Coosa CC in Rome, with the inaugural West Pines Classic to be played May 18-19.
The Senior Division has two tournaments set for April, one at Willow Lake in Metter April 6-7 and the other April 27-28 at Chapel Hills in Douglasville.
The third Senior Division event on the 2020 schedule was played March 9-10 at Sanctuary GC in Brunswick, with James Mason winning by one shot over Paul Claxton with a 9-under 135 total. The 68-year-old Mason shot 66 in the final round, including a 5-under 31 on the back nine highlighted by birdies on his last three holes.
Claxton also shot 66 the second day, posting a 4-under 32 on his final nine with birdies at 16 and 17. Stephen Keppler was third at 138 with back-to-back rounds of 69, followed by Sonny Skinner with scores of 71-68—139.