It comes at a deep point in the unofficial press release that announced the postponement of the 2020 Open Championship “At a difficult time like this we have to recognise that sport must stand aside to let people focus on keeping themselves and their families healthy and safe.” Take a moment to consider the nouns that the Royal and Ancient golf club of St. Andrews selected in this powerful sentence: time, sport, people, families. When history judges humanity on the year 2020, it will recognize that one organization ranked those four nouns in their proper order, and kept a proper perspective, while three other organizations failed.
In case any of us forgets, humanity is flawed and imperfect. Look no farther than today’s (April 6th, 2020) CNN.Com article headline: Chinese tourist sites packed as country comes out of lockdown, but experts say risk still high. Less than 4 months after the virus was identified in Wuhan, China has opened its largest spaces (if only for a moment) to the public. More importantly, that public appeared to forget what it had just undertaken, and abused an opportunity that was probably misread. Are we to consider that people in Westchester county, San Francisco, and Augusta will not do the exact same thing? We cannot. We know better.
The Royal and Ancient might have been tempted to do what the other three organizations did. They might have been tempted by the greed that drives the PGA of America, the USGA, and the Augusta National Golf Club. They might have been, but they were not. None of these four organizations has a crystal ball that foretells the future with certainty. None of them employs pandemic scientists who might guide them toward understanding that this is not a short-term situation. Over the past six weeks, the nation’s pandemic experts have cautioned that the virus might be seasonal, cyclical, or whatever nomenclature you wish to use. That would be a threat if the organizers, competitors, volunteers, and attendees were all native to the one area where the events are to be played. And they are not.
Volunteers, ticket and badge holders, organizers, and competitors will travel to the PGA Championship, the USGA Open Championship, and The Masters, from around the country and around the world. Could there be asymptomatic carriers among them? Perhaps. Could there be artists of deception, in full knowledge that they are ill? Perhaps. Might these self-serving (is there any other, applicable term?) events recreate the hotspots that are taxing responders to the point of exhaustion, while killing persons, across the globe? Perhaps.
It is ironic that a small, island community in the state of Georgia, where The Masters is to be held, had the courage to stand up to its governor. Tybee Island’s town council had voted to close its beaches to tourist traffic, and the mayor of the town supported the council wholeheartedly. When the current Georgia governor ordered that beaches across the state re-open to tourism, Tybee Island stood as one and said “no.”
We should all use the mighty Royal and Ancient, and tiny Tybee Island, as our beacons as we go forward into this unlit darkness.