PGA Tour Plans to Bring Back Pro-Ams First and Fans Second

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 02: PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to the media prior to the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 02, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 02: PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to the media prior to the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 02, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

Starting in June, the PGA Tour began holding golf tournaments again, but all the pro-ams, which are money-makers for charities, were canceled.  Now there’s a plan to bring them back.

Pro-ams, one of the big charity functions in PGA Tour events, will return. Right now, they are scheduled on the PGA Tour as soon as Corales Puntacana Resort, held the third week in September. Bringing back pro-ams is part of what the PGA Tour calls Phase II of their plan to get things back to pre-virus conditions.

“Every tournament is starting to plan for multiple potential outcomes, and hopefully planning towards the return of what we know as normal,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in his press conference at the Tour Championship. “Our tournaments are eager to re-institute the pro-ams. It’s obviously a very important revenue source and source of connection to the communities.”

The PGA Tour pro-ams are money-raisers for the local charities where tournaments are held.  PGA Tour players make themselves available to participate in playing golf with local people who pay the tournament organizers a goodly sum to be able to enjoy a round of golf in the company of a PGA Tour player.  The player’s time is donated.  And usually, he considers it a practice round. The pro-am revenue benefits the tournament’s organizing group, which is a charity, and the charity funnels the pro-am proceeds back to the community.  For instance, in Scottsdale, the tournament organizers are the Thunderbirds.

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Both the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour Champions have already reinstated pro-ams for their tournaments without adverse complications. Pro-am participants are all tested before they play, according to Monahan, and they are all following the necessary protocols to be able to get out and enjoy golf while raising money for charity.

For the PGA Tour, the bigger issue will be the issue of bringing back fans.  There are a lot of working parts to that, both physically, on-site, and with how people will be or won’t be screened at entry points.

If there are fans, then the tournament will likely need structures for seating, the hospitality tents, the merchandise tents, and even the all-important beer tent, all of which can be huge.  The decision-making on those depends in part on which tournament it is and how many galleries and other structures they typically have.

In Scottsdale at the Waste Management Open, for example, it takes weeks to assemble all the scaffolding needed for just the 16th hole, never mind the rest of the property.  They start putting things up in November and December.  At The Players, there’s an army of construction around the 16th and 17th holes that starts in December or January for an event in March.

Some tournaments, due to the nature of their terrain and typical gallery sizes, have less rather than more buildings.  Riviera Country Club, for instance, doesn’t use fan scaffolding back of the 18th hole because they have a giant slope behind the green that holds thousands of fans, but they have on-course seating in other areas.

“It all depends on what the buildout plan is, what is intended to be, but when we’re getting inside that six to eight-week window, we’re making decisions about what phase we’ll be returning in,” Monahan said about the timing.

Monahan has not said which tournaments might be the first to allow fans to attend.

“Given the consistently fluid nature of the virus and the way different communities are responding, each discussion is a different discussion,” he explained. “You may see different tournaments returning at different levels as we get into the end of the year and into ’21.”

In short, the PGA Tour believes when it is safe for fans to return, when local governments allow it, when health experts advise it, the Tour will give the all-clear for people to come back out to watch the best players in the world.  It’s a cautious approach, but necessary.

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“We’re going to get back to normal fast,” Monahan he predicted.