Is Golf in crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Following the announcement of the cancellation of Women’s Amateur Latin America 2020, the Director of The R&A for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mark Lawrie, gave a virtual press conference in which more than 25 specialized journalists participated and in which different aspects related to the moment that golf is going through in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic were discussed.

“After talking to all the Federations in the region, we believe that the great challenge we all have ahead of us is to remain relevant while we cannot ‘go out on the golf course’. The objective at this time is to remain in permanent contact and generate training stimuli for all the players that are part of the golf industry,” said Lawrie about the role of The R&A in Latin America for the next few months. “We will organize virtual seminars: Agronomy 101, Women’s Golf, and the Conference for Managers and Directors,” he added.

The inaugural edition of WALA was one of the main objectives of The R&A for this 2020, an event that the St. Andrews-based institution devised in conjunction with the Annika Foundation, following the successful experience of the Annika Invitational Latin America. The COVID-19 stopped the tournament that was to be held from September 3 to 6 in Pilar Golf, Buenos Aires, in a logical decision that Lawrie explained: “after several conversations with the Annika Foundation and with Annika Sorenstam herself, we thought that postponing the championship for this year would put us in a situation of possible conflict – due to their obligations to their Colleges – with the players who are in the United States, many of them potential WALA participants. In addition, there are obviously uncertain issues such as flights, hotels and the degree of openness of the countries. The most sensible thing was to cancel and move to the same venue by 2021.

The Latin America Amateur Championship was the next target for questions from the different media that participated in the Press Conference. The LAAC is announced to be held from January 14-17, 2021 at the Lima Golf Club in Peru. Lawrie is optimistic: “The LAAC, to date, is confirmed; Lima GC will be a great venue. I spoke to your authorities and everything is in place. I can’t predict the curve of the pandemic in Peru, but today the LAAC is confirmed to be played at the place and date it was scheduled”.

In times of pandemic, one of the strongest decisions that The R&A had to take worldwide was the cancellation of The 149th Open that was to be played at Royal St. George’s, England. For the first time since the Second World War, the Major with the greatest history and tradition on the planet will not take place. For this edition, there were 4 Latin American players who had already qualified: Joaquin Niemann (Chile), Abraham Ancer (Mexico), Ricardo Celia (Colombia) and Abel Gallegos (Argentina), winner of the LAAC 2020.

“The players who have secured their place at The 149th Open as of April 6, 2020, will maintain their eligibility to enter the Championship to be played at Royal St. George’s in 2021. Work is underway on the Terms and Conditions of entry, which will be communicated to players in a timely manner, as well as how this will affect other waivers and qualification categories at The 149th Open,” Lawrie said.

The support of The R&A programs in the region, the postponement of the World Amateur Team Championships, the restart of the PGA TOUR schedule and the priority of health in all decisions made by The R&A at this time were several of the topics addressed at a press conference that lasted more than an hour.