Memories are the pages of our personal history books, etched in an ink of experience, each detail of the past cultivating a craving for the future. As with everyone during this global pandemic, those pages have been put on pause for LPGA fans who eagerly await the next chapters to be written.
But as some semblance of normalcy starts to return to the world of sports, and the world overall, it feels right to let in that most powerful of emotions – anticipation.
Truly, absence does make the heart grow fonder and the hearts of LPGA fans have grown with anticipation as each day without competition is entered into the pages of history.
An extremely wise person said: “Happiness is having something to look forward to.” Nothing makes the sun shine brighter than to wake up knowing something special lay ahead. For LPGA fans, it’s seeing great athletes master this diabolical game.
Never in its 70-year history has the LPGA been away this long. Never in its 70-year history has anticipation for its return been this strong.
My personal pages are packed with good fortune produced by the LPGA family – the athletes, caddies, agents, sponsors, equipment reps, administrators and my colleagues in the media. Part of what makes the LPGA special is that the players allow you into their world.
Simply put, the better you know someone the better you can write about them. In an entertainment world where social distancing was creeping in long before coronavirus, LPGA players are that rare breed of celebrity who readily share their insights, observations and passions with you.
Commissioner Mike Whan asks them to “act like a Founder.” What he means is take ownership of the Tour in the same way those 13 women who created it in 1950 did and promote it with the same passion. Virtually to a woman, the members respond.
And among the lessons to be learned from the Founders is that history is a marathon, not a sprint, and that caution is the proper path even when impatience insists otherwise – especially when impatience insists otherwise.
As golf’s global tour, the LPGA was impacted by Covid-19 before virtually every other major sports organization. The tournament in China was canceled Jan. 30 and those in Thailand and Singapore were put on hold Feb. 2. On March 12, the first U.S. event was postponed.
When the PGA Tour returned last week, the anticipation for the LPGA only intensified. While July remains a possibility for the resumption of competition, the overall plan is based not on instant gratification but rather the long-term health and safety of the Tour and all those involved.
“Where is the LPGA?” Commissioner Whan asked in a video message to the fans. “Let me tell you, we’re coming. But returning to sport, returning to play is a responsibility more than a race,” he said.
Whan stressed that a return will be accompanied by a guarantee of a “safe environment for my athletes, my caddies, my sponsors and for the cities and markets we come to.”
Certainly, a return is close enough to allow that sense of anticipation to return and to remember the great start and compelling storylines written by the start of the 2020 season.
The first two events in Florida – the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio – were won by a pair of young talents in Gaby Lopez of Mexico and Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden.
The next two, both in Australia, were won by two veterans from South Korea – Hee Young Park picked up her third Tour win at the ISPS Handa Vic Open and Hall of Fame member Inbee Park got career win No. 20 at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
In an exciting return to form, Inbee Park leads in Race to the CME Globe points, Rolex Player of the Year and the money list. Nasa Hataoka from Japan and only 21 tops the Vare Trophy for best scoring average and Celine Boutier of France is the only player with three top-10 finishes in the first four events.
The top five in the Rolex Rankings – which was frozen in March – is No. 1 Jin Young Ko (South Korea); No. 2 Nelly Korda (United States); No. 3 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea); No. 4 Nasa Hataoka (Japan) and No. 5. Danielle Kang (United States).
And how about this for an eye-popping stat: Topping the list in driving distance is Maria Fassi of Mexico at 292.688 yards per pop. That’s yet more proof that the distance revolution is coming to women’s golf.
Seventy years ago, when the LPGA played its first tournament, no one really knew what lay ahead for the new tour. Now, the only uncertainty is the unease that grips the entire world about what the new normal will look like.
For the LPGA, this much is certain: When it returns it will be at the right time and in a safe way.
And for the LPGA, the new normal will resemble the old in this way: It will be all about great golf played by generous athletes. Their absence has made our hearts grow fonder.