It’s over. But not really. If you’ve ever driven through a hurricane (and this is not a recommendation), you know what it feels like to see sunshine on the horizon. Wind and rain remain terrible, still as dangerous as ever, but you can see the end. There’s a sense of cautious relief, a belief that if you can just make it a few more miles, the devastating hellscape can be put behind you.
That’s what flipping the calendar into the new year feels like for most of us. As we look back on 2020 with the blank, hard gaze of a shipwreck survivor, and turn our focus ahead to 2021, we know we aren’t out of the storm yet. But we can see the trailing edge.
Fresh starts are on every mind. The LPGA Tour is no different. After what seems like a minute of rest, play resumes in a few short weeks with what has now become a familiar and happy opening, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Orlando. Tour winners will be there. So will the celebrities who liven the field and entertain the followers. The event will feature a few on-site fans, special invitees from the sponsor, all of whom will go through testing protocols. With several vaccines in distribution, there is hope that more fan-welcoming events are on the horizon.
February will feature the return of the Championship, although the venue hasn’t been announced. Then there is a new tournament in March at a familiar place for those who follow the Tour closely. The next edition of the Drive Championship will take place at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club about an hour north of Orlando. It is the site of the former Coates Golf Championship, the course where Hana Jang captured her first LPGA Tour victory and the place where Na Yeon Choi mounted a comeback. It features eight “tribute” holes, replicas of some of the most famous holes in the world, including the Road Hole at the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland and the famous par-3 12th at Augusta National.
Those three U.S.-based events will warm up the players and fans for the packed schedule that follows. Beginning the last week in March with the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California and running through the CME Group Tour Championship that concludes on November 21 in Naples, Florida, there are few breaks in the 2021 playing calendar. It will be as busy a time as the LPGA Tour has experienced in its 71-year history. And it couldn’t come at a better time. Sponsors, volunteers, community leaders, players, caddies and staff are all anxious to get a full-throated season underway. And the fans who tuned in and engaged with golf in unprecedented ways during the darkest days of 2020 appear ready to do it again in 2021.
So, everyone understands if you rang in the new year with a heartfelt sigh of relief. And we get it that you aren’t quite ready to toss caution to the wind and fully engage with the game just yet. That’s smart. It is still raining. But there appears to be a break in the clouds up ahead.
The first shot of the LPGA Tour season gets airborne early on January 21. We can’t wait to see it, and, eventually, to see you.