Charles Schwab Challenge director: 'It's scary' to be first tournament back during a pandemic

Ryan Young
·Writer
·3 min read

The PGA Tour announced plans to resume play this week after taking a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will attempt to restart with the Charles Schwab Challenge on June 11.

Tournament director Michael Tothe, however, is feeling the pressure ahead of the event at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

"It's scary ... it's daunting because I want to make sure we do it right,” Tothe said, via ESPN. “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.”

A general view of a flag during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club on May 23, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas.
A general view of a flag during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club on May 23, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Resuming play amid a pandemic

The Tour suspended operations after the first round of The Players Championship in March, and canceled numerous tournaments across all Tours before announcing a revised schedule this week — which will include three of the four major championships being played this fall.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

There were more than 717,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of Saturday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 18,000 in Texas alone. The Fort Worth City Council extended its shelter-in-place restrictions through April 30, though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced executive orders on Friday to ease coronavirus restrictions — including opening state parks, lifting a ban on non-essential surgeries, opening retail stores and more in the coming days and weeks.

While the Tour and the city are hoping to move forward, they know that it may not be easy.

“A lot of that has been discussed, and a lot more has to be figured out,” Tothe said, via ESPN. “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.”

But if the Charles Schwab Challenge goes well, Tour chief tournaments and competitions officer Andy Pazder said it will be a very good sign for the rest of the schedule.

“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,” Andy Pazder, the tour's chief tournaments and competitions officer, said, via ESPN. “We will not conduct our tournaments if the answers to those previous questions aren't yes. We are confident [in that].”

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