While most global sport has shut down over the coronavirus pandemic, a US third-level women’s golf tour is playing through.
The competition – able to keep running because of a ruling declaring Arizona courses as essential businesses – included a tournament where the winner’s prize included a roll of toilet paper.
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The Cactus Tour will stage its 12th 54-hole event of the year, and third since major US sports league went silent, starting Tuesday at Sun City Country Club in Arizona.
There are precautions to allow for safety and cut the chances of spreading or contracting the deadly virus, with players only in pairs to help follow distancing guidelines.
And while last week’s top prize was only $2,800, it brought winner Sarah Burnham an even more prized treasure seldom seen on store shelves these days.
“They gave some toilet paper,” Burnham told the Detroit News. “He was like, ‘Here’s a little extra prize for the winner.'”
She described the atmosphere to the newspaper, such as no rakes in bunkers and players leaving flagsticks in cups, which were partly filled with pieces of pool noodles — children’s foam floating swim toys — so players could more easily reclaim their ball.
“We practiced all the social distancing guidelines and stuff like that,” Burnham said. “It’s not like a huge group.”
Burnham had played one event of her second LPGA season in Australia when the campaign shut down. It’s not set to return until May 14 with no assurance that date will hold given the growing healthcare crisis.
Two weeks ago, it was two-time major winner Anna Nordqvist of Sweden who won a $2,000 top prize at Phoenix, beating compatriot Lisa Pettersson on the second playoff hole.
Nordqvist is an eight-time LPGA winner whose first tour title was a major, the 2009 LPGA Championship, and whose most recent win was also a major, the 2017 Evian Championship.
What has helped Brown continue while the LPGA and its top developmental tour have shut down is a decision by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to classify golf courses as “essential” business to remain open while many others are closed due to the coronavirus.
There has been criticism but players are happy to have the chance to compete.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the feedback from the girls, which is all I care about,” Cactus Tour owner Mike Brown told Golfweek.
Clubs told to shut down golf courses around Australia
Golf Australia has told clubs around the country to close courses and all facilities until further notice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Golf was allowed to continue across Australia last week thanks to new local rules, social-distancing measures and the closure of clubhouses.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday that outdoor gatherings would be limited to a maximum of two people to try to curb the coronavirus spread.
Golf Australia chairman Andrew Newbold suggested it was clear his sport now did not fall within those parameters, even if many people used it as exercise and, as such, recommended all clubs and facilities shut.
“While this is a difficult time for the golf industry and wider society, Golf Australia is committed to working with clubs and facilities across the states and territories to ensure that we return a vibrant, strong industry,” Newbold said in a statement.
“Golf Australia acknowledges that some state and territory governments will provide additional information.
“We will keep you up to date as and when additional state and territory-based announcements are made.
“So you are clear on the legalities of golf courses and their operations moving forward.”
Golf Australia is lobbying state and federal governments to ensure, in the event of further restrictions, that course staff will still be able to access clubs and facilities.
“We will keep you all up to date as to the status of these discussions, although it should be noted that as of now there are no further restrictions on current greenkeeping operations,” Newbold said.
COVID-19 has halted organised sport in Australia at the highest level, but also at grassroots clubs across the country.
with Yahoo Sport staff