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Inside the PGA Tour’s Shutdown at the 2020 Players Championship

From Ryan Lavner, writing for the Golf Channel…

What they recall now, a year later, is the dizzying speed.

How the novel coronavirus mushroomed from an international issue into a global pandemic.

How in the span of a day, they retreated from 40,000 maskless fans to no spectators to zero tournaments – period – for the next few months.

How commissioner Jay Monahan crashed from the high of the PGA Tour’s flagship event to driving home 24 hours later, his head spinning, wondering what the hell had just happened.

It was a professional crisis no one could have adequately prepared for, and it all unfolded here – in a dim, cozy conference room on the second floor of the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse. Huddled inside the Board Room, surrounded by oil paintings of the former commissioners, the Tour’s executive leadership team met for more than 12 hours on March 12, 2020, trying to come to grips with an existential threat to their business.

On the television they could monitor both the first round of The Players Championship and the breaking-news chyrons on every major network. From the balcony they could watch thousands of fans stroll the lush grounds, buzzing from the day’s action (if not the $9 beers), seemingly oblivious to the chaos unfolding around them.

Schools were closing.

Businesses were ceasing operations.

Borders were locking down.

Those seated around the conference room table knew the direction they were headed, but the speed they arrived there, fueled by each bit of concerning news, was disorienting. By nightfall, golf was on an island as small as TPC Sawgrass’ 17th.

At the end of a marathon day of meetings, Laura Neal, the Tour’s senior vice president of communications and media content, remembered something she’d learned in a crisis communications class. On a giant pad of paper, she scribbled this question for the group to consider:

What would reasonable people appropriately expect us to do?

For the rest of this exciting – and instructive – narrative, click here.

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