PGA Memorial, LPGA return among events lobbying for fans

Washington (AFP) –


The Jack Nicklaus-hosted PGA Memorial tournament and the LPGA's scheduled return event from a coronavirus shutdown are reportedly pushing Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to allow spectators to attend the events.

Tournament directors from those events and two others scheduled in the state in July and August wrote a letter last Friday to DeWine, the Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.

They want DeWine to end or ease a ban on large gatherings so fans could attend. His order limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer began March 12 due to the deadly virus outbreak.

"If the question is, 'Could you play the tournament without spectators?' we couldn't," LPGA Marathon Classic tournament director Judd Silverman said.

The Memorial was postponed from the first week of June to July 16-19 at Muirfield Village in a major reshuffling of golf due to COVID-19.

With the PGA planning four events without spectators to start its return, the suburban Columbus event is now set to be the second that might be played with fans, if local officials allow.

"We are working on a plan and details to follow," Memorial tournament director Dan Sullivan told the newspaper, saying it would be played with or without spectators.

However, the LPGA Marathon Classic, set for July 23-26 at Sylvania, Ohio, needs spectators to be viable.

"When you run the numbers, if no spectators, then you're returning all of the sponsorship money," Silverman said. "Once you return all that money, it puts our event deep into the red to the point we can't afford to do that."

Under a revamped LPGA schedule, the Marathon would be the tour's first event since February and only the fifth of 2020.

Attendance at the events is expected to be reduced as part of safeguards that include temperature taking before entry, protective masks and gloves, social distancing and hand sanitizer.

World number seven Patrick Cantlay of the United States is the defending champion at the Memorial while South Korea's sixth-ranked Kim Sei-young captured last year's LPGA Marathon victory.

The Memorial needs to know about fans admittance by June 1 while the LPGA event needs an answer by June 20, according to the report.

Also making the plea were Ohio events on the PGA's developmental Korn Ferry Tour and Over-50 Champions Tour set for August.

"We all rely on sponsors and fans as critical elements to our success," the letter said. "Without fans, these tournaments will not be successful or viable."