Colonial director says being first PGA Tour event back is ‘scary’

With the PGA Tour aiming to return to action — without fans — at Colonial Country Club on June 11, the tournament director of the Charles Schwab Challenge feels the pressure “to make sure we do it right.”

The PGA Tour on Thursday announced it would try to resume its season at the event in Fort Worth, Texas from June 11 to 14.

“It’s scary … it’s daunting because I want to make sure we do it right,” tournament director Michael Tothe told Freddie and Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio on Thursday night. “I know the PGA Tour wants to make sure they do it right, so I hope we’re a benchmark and I hope we’re an opportunity for people to get back to normal.

“… You’re on one side of the razor’s edge of having the opportunity to come back to sports, regain life a little bit, watch some golf, be outside, host the best players in the world. Then the other side of the razor is there’s a lot going on still with the economy and our care workers and people suffering from COVID-19, so it brings you back to the center. But I think golf’s just a little bit different, and we’re going to take the steps necessary to make sure that if we have that opportunity, we’re going to do it right in Fort Worth.”

The Fort Worth City Council voted to extend shelter-in-place restrictions until April 30, and that date could be extended. Tothe said the tournament is working with Gov. Greg Abbott and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price to “do what’s right” for the community.

“Our little golf tournament that goes on pales in comparison to what needs to be done in our area,” Tothe said.

Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief tournaments and competitions officer, said there are numerous issues to work through.

“If we’re able to determine that we can conduct the Charles Schwab Challenge and subsequent events in compliance with all health regulations, local, state and federal health regulations, and if we’re comfortable that our protocol, testing protocol and on-site procedures give us a confidence level, [then] we’re going to proceed with our tournaments,” Pazder said. “We will not conduct our tournaments if the answers to those previous questions aren’t yes. We are confident [in that].”

While excited about the prospect of restarting professional golf in her city, Price echoed those thoughts in a conference call with tour and tournament officials on Wednesday. She also expressed confidence the city would be able to accommodate those in need of hotel rooms and other infrastructure-related necessities.

Tothe said the tournament field would be increased to 144 golfers. As an invitational, the field normally is limited to 120.

Price said she was hopeful there would be testing ready and available either at the hotels or at the golf course for everyone who’d be on-site, though a plan was not in place.

“A lot of that has been discussed, and a lot more has to be figured out,” Tothe said. “Every element of the golf tournament is now going to be looked at and dissected and we’re going to have to change what we did in 2019 to what we do in 2020. But what’s paramount in all of this is, we have to put everybody that has the opportunity to be on the grounds with us in a very safe environment. No stone will be left unturned.”

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