The COVID-19 USGA hit list now stands at six events lost to the global pandemic, furthering the pall it has cast over golf.
There have been closed courses and disrupted schedules, but one of the more painful losses due to the novel coronavirus occurred late last week, when the USGA announced that the U.S. Girls’ Junior tournament, a prestigious event won in the past by golf luminaries Amy Alcott, Nancy Lopez, JoAnne Carner, Mickey Wright and Hollis Stacy, would be cancelled.
“We had 156 of the best junior players in the world coming here–yeah, I’d say it’s pretty disappointing,” Eddie Ainsworth, executive director of the Colorado PGA, said of the tournament, which was slated for July 13-18 at the Eisenhower Golf Club, located on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“Our primary focus when making determinations around championships continues to be the safety and well-being of everyone involved,” John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of Championships for the USGA, said in a statement. “While we are incredibly disappointed to have to make the decision to cancel our two junior championships, we know it is the right one.”
The announcement brought to six the number of USGA events lost to the pandemic: in addition to the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Junior Amateur Championships (scheduled for the following week in Minnesota), the USGA previously canceled four 2020 championships–the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball on March 17, and the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior Women’s Open on April 6.
Apart from missing out on what portended to be some stellar golf, Ainsworth said the blow was exacerbated by the loss of a number of firsts that would have accompanied play–the tournament would have been the first USGA event held on a military instillation, for example. Also, unlike previous years when the event was fronted by money from large corporations (last year’s sponsor was Sentry Insurance), this time around it was being presented by the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado, the coalition between the PGA and Colorado Golf Association—another first, according to Ainsworth.
Also on tap was a Women’s Leadership Summit, which was expected to draw a sellout crowd.
“We’re definitely going to postpone, or cancel that,” Ainsworth said. “We probably would have had 250-plus women at that event; I have no choice but to cancel that now.
“Whoever’s going to allow us to do that now–whenever we get to that phase (of allowing social gatherings).”
Events like the Summit were also part of a push by the JGAC to showcase not only the tournament, but also the sport, as well as the region.
“We were going to have things like Golf in the Schools, and Golf in the Park, and other events in the Colorado Springs area,” Ainsworth said. “Part of the feedback we had gotten from others about the event was that the courses were great but no one in the cities where it was played knew that it was going on there–we were looking at the idea of using the event to grow the game more than hosting a championship.”
As disappointing as the cancellation is, Ainsworth is maintaining hope that the USGA will bring the event back to Colorado in the near future; the 2021 and 2022 tournaments have already been awarded to Chevy Chase, Maryland and Bowling Green, Kentucky–Ainsworth says he thinks Colorado should jump to the front of the line the following year.
“They’re good people at the USGA and I know they were excited to be coming here,” he said. “I would think they would give us a real, hard look before they began considering anywhere else.”
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