The LPGA is back in business this weekend at the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida, a course that is home to players such as Lydia Ko and Annika Sorenstam, who came out of retirement to play in the event this week.
The tournament is something akin to normalcy for the women’s tour, which is playing for the second time in 2021. The women’s tour will play again next week at the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik at Ocala, Florida. But as the coronavirus pandemic world continues to swirl around us, the LPGA remains the tour that is perhaps hit the hardest of any sports organization in the country.
Remember that the LPGA shouldn’t be playing in Florida this week or next week. The tour should be on a five-event swing through Australia and Asia, the LPGA’s traditional spring Asian tour. The last three events of that swing were canceled last year because of the pandemic, though the tour did play the two events in Australia. That was the beginning of a five-month shutdown for the LPGA, a shutdown that came earlier than other sports in the country since the LPGA’s events were overseas.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 issues, the five events in Australia and Asia were early casualties on the LPGA schedule for 2021 as well. That left a large gap in a schedule for players who had too few chances to play in 2020.
To its credit, the LPGA managed to put two events together quickly, this week’s Orlando event and next week’s event in Ocala. The purses aren’t massive, but they are purses nonetheless, giving players a chance to make a check and pay some bills.
It’s a similar strategy that the tour used last year, adding some events in scheduled open weeks late in the year just to give players a chance to play. It’s one of the best examples of a sports organization scrambling to help its players during the pandemic.
A slow LPGA start for 2021
The start of a year has always been tough for the LPGA, and this year is no different. Consider the tour has one event in January, one in February and two in March, the event in Ocala and the Kia Classic in Carlsbad on March 25-28. That means by the time the tour comes to the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, California. the first week of April for the first major of the year, the LPGA will have played just four times in 2021.
Once the LPGA does get to Carlsbad at the end of March, the Kia Classic will be the first of 17 consecutive weeks of tournaments, including trips in May to Singapore, Thailand and China. Those are the three rescheduled events the LPGA should be getting ready to play now.
But in reality, no one knows for sure where the pandemic will be then or whether those tournaments might be in danger of being postponed again. At the end of that 17-week stretch is the Amundi Evian Championship in France, so travel to Europe might still be interesting.
It may appear that the golf world is starting to return to normal, with both the Masters and the PGA Championship announcing they will allow limited fans on their courses in April and May, respectively. But there are still many hurdles to be cleared before anything resembling normalcy returns to events. Ask the folks at the ANA Inspiration, which will be played for the second year in a row without fans in Rancho Mirage.
The LPGA schedule for now is the best it can be under the circumstances. Hopefully, there won’t be a need for more postponements and the existing events will be able to bring more fans back to the course to cheer on the players. But for now, just as everything else in the world, the pandemic has everyone hoping for stability and waiting for inevitable change.
Larry Bohannan is the golf writer for the Palm Springs Desert Sun, part of the USA Today Network. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan.