Choi Hye-jin, 21-year-old rising golfer of South Korea, buried her five-meter eagle putt in the seventh hole on Thursday. This would have drawn a raucous round of applause from the audience, but only a “nice” from her caddie was the only voice that echoed the green. Wearing a broad grin on her face, Choi and her caddie bumped their elbows instead of the usual high five.
With the world’s major golf tournaments on hold owing to the shock of COVID-19, South Korea hosted the KLPGA Championship in Lakewood Country Club in Yangju on Thursday as the first country to reopen an international golf tournament.
The KLPGA tournament has always drawn a huge attention from global golf communities, with fans crowding the scene with in uniforms with different colors that symbolize the athletes they root for, but this time the golf event is taking place with no audience as preventive measure against COVID-19.
“I would know that the ball has made it to the green when I hear the applause from the crowd. But it was awkward today as it was so silent,” said Bae Sun-woo, who is tied for the lead in Round 1 with Kim Ja-young with no bogey and five birdies.
“There was no applause even after I scored a birdie. It almost felt like a practice round,” said Kim Hyo-joo. Kim said she had to clap her hands for herself, describing the atmosphere of the game. Notwithstanding the unfamiliar backdrops, the players said in unison that they were happy to compete.
Both players and caddies complied with a set of rigorous prevention rules for COVID-19. After passing the “walk-through sterilizer,” they maintained a two-meter distance from one another during practice and at the locker room. Sanitizers were placed throughout the course, the poles and rakes were sealed in an anti-virus film. While players were allowed to keep their mask off during the game, some played with the masks on.
The KLPGA Championship drew attention from the entire global community. Some 117 reporters from home and abroad including 16 foreign correspondents visited Yangju, and the tournament was broadcast live in eight countries including Australia’s Fox Sports and Japan’s Sky A.
Yun-Cheol Jeong firstname.lastname@example.org