When the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour opened registration for its first event since the coronavirus outbreak began, tour officials immediately were swamped. Within five minutes, about 200 players registered for the May 9-10 tournament in Gainesville, Ga., hoping to finally get a chance for organized competition.
The tour, which stages about 35 tournaments a year for teenagers who aspire to play college golf, typically reserves around 84-90 spots for each event. Demand was so high in this instance, the number was pushed to 155.
“When we had an overwhelming number of players, I called the golf course and they said ‘Well, we’ll just shut it down (to public play) for the whole day,’ ” said Todd Thompson, executive director of the SJGT. “So in actuality, now we have two rounds of 78 players, one wave in the morning and one in the afternoon. There will be a crossover (with the two waves) where there are a larger number of kids there, but there will be some separation as well.”
Georgia has been among the most aggressive states in reopening businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this tournament is among the largest to be played in the country since the middle of March.
The young players desperately want to compete, so much so that Thompson said about 20-25 of them have already been meeting at a local course to play unofficial tournaments among themselves. The host course for this weekend’s official event – Chattahoochee Golf Club – long has been available for play and is ready to open the doors of its clubhouse two days ahead of schedule to accommodate the SJGT.
“We’re going to use common sense,” Thompson said. “We’re not going to do things that threaten people. We’ve relayed the message to parents and kids that we’re offering it and you can come out if you want to. … I’ve been playing golf in St. Simons (Island, Ga.) since this whole thing has been going on and a golf course is probably the safest environment we can be in. With this game, you can obviously stay away from everybody.”
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