Eleven months ago, the LPGA Tour returned to Northwest Ohio in its first steps after the COVID-19 break on the schedule. It created the LPGA Drive On Championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo and then played the LPGA Classic marathon in Sylvania. As the tour is returning for the first time since returning to the marathon, it provided a mirror for players to reflect on the coronavirus era and how far they have come in the last year.
“I don’t know how many [COVID-19] Tests that we have carried out so far, ”said Sophia Popov at her press conference on Wednesday. “I just think we are lucky enough to be able to keep playing with everything that went on last year. I think we are all very grateful for this opportunity.”
The LPGA bubble, designed to ensure the safety of everyone on the tour, encompassed everything from rules that players could eat in to the COVID-19 tests. There were of course unforeseen problems.
So Yeon Ryu delayed her return to the United States from South Korea because of the pandemic until December, and she had to find out about the logs before she could play again. “(I) felt like I suddenly became a rookie,” said Ryu. She got her way by reading books and watching Netflix, a common theme with the added hotel room downtime over the past year.
Stacy Lewis, who won the 2020 Ladies Scottish Open for the first time as a mom last August, faced her own challenges of getting her 2-year-old daughter Chesnee through the whole bladder. Lewis explained that Chesnee would ask to eat inside restaurants, but she had to tell her it wasn’t possible. “We started going to the park and eating in the park,” said Lewis on Wednesday. “It has picnic tables. You get creative and we did it, but I’m glad we’re on the other side.
Getting creative was a prerequisite for breaking the LPGA’s toughest bubble – during its inaugural swing in Asia this year. The tour’s policy of only allowing travel to and from the hotel to the golf course – which was necessary for the LPGA after it missed the Fall Asia Swing in 2020 – made socializing and getting from the game a challenge. “[The bubble in Asia] You’ve thought too much about golf, ”said Popov. “That was the hardest part of relying on yourself and trying to talk for six or seven hours before going to bed.”
Reigning Marathon Classic winner Danielle Kang’s worst moments last year also came during isolation from the tour’s stops in Singapore and Thailand. “Asia has been tough for me this year because I’m very needy,” said Kang. “I need people around me and I disturb a lot of people. I’ll call my agent for an hour if I have to. I don’t know, I like to have people around me. Not being able to go into their rooms, not being able to eat with them, that was hard for me. “
As the tour slowly returns to full capacity events with no restrictions, it faces the event that serves as the finish line and probably the biggest party of the year. Inverness will host the Solheim Cup games against Europe on Labor Day weekend. Kang played in Inverness on Tuesday and heard all about where the grandstands are being built. The planned rush will be immense.
“This is going to be great,” said Kang.