With a largely reduced 2020 season for the three International Tours, teamwork and determination will lead to a revitalized tournament season in 2021.
A week before the 2020 PLAYERS Championship, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica players were in Mazatlan, Mexico, for the season-opening tournament, the Estrella del Mar Open. Five days after Brazil’s Alex Rocha won the event, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan canceled the TOUR’s flagship event at TPC Sawgrass due to issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Before long, the dominoes began falling on all the PGA TOUR’s affiliated Tours.
Within a few months, and with no path to play tournament golf in the summer of 2020, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, PGA TOUR Series-China and the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada all postponed their seasons—the latter two eventually canceling outright. In December 2020, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica resumed play with consecutive events in Miami and the Dominican Republic, followed by a scheduled two-month break.
The three Tours, and the LOCALiQ Series—created as a response to the lack of playing opportunities for International Tour players—continue to evaluate what they will be able to do in 2021, working with partners, golf courses and government and health entities in China, Canada and Latin America, respectively.
PGA TOUR Latinoamérica
Combined with Mazatlan’s Estrella del Mar Open and the two December events, the Shell Open in Florida and the Puerto Plata Open, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica intends to use these three tournaments as the foundation of what will be a 2020-21 wraparound season, with additional events planned in the first two quarters of 2021. PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Managing Director Todd Rhinehart anticipates the 2021 portion of the schedule will begin in February and end in June.
“The fact we’ll be playing again in [December] 2020 and that other planned tournaments will be rescheduled is extraordinarily good news considering all the challenges we’ve faced in Latin America due to COVID-19,” Rhinehart said. “Our team has worked tirelessly with municipalities, health organizations and all of our partners to be able to give the players competitive opportunities, both in 2020 and into 2021.”
Mackenzie Tour–PGA TOUR Canada
Players and staff were in Dothan, Ala., in March for the Tour’s third of seven scheduled Qualifying Tournaments when THE PLAYERS Championship announcement occurred the night before the final round in Alabama. That Q-School turned out to be the last Mackenzie Tour action of the season. Border restrictions, mandatory quarantines for those entering Canada and government-implemented gathering limitations made it impossible to play any of the 13 scheduled events.
“It was certainly disappointing as we had a tremendous schedule lined up and an exciting group of members ready to play,” said Mackenzie Tour Executive Director Scott Pritchard. “Looking back, though, it was the right decision as the safety and well-being of our players, staff, fans and everybody else associated with our tournaments was always our No. 1 priority.”
Players who maintained status after the 2019 season and those who earned membership via their performances at the three 2020 Qualifying Tournaments the Tour conducted will retain their playing options in 2021.
“As things improve throughout the world, we expect our 2021 season will be exactly what we thought 2020 would be—just delayed a year,” Pritchard added.
As a consolation, Pritchard and his team put together the Canada Life Series, a four-tournament schedule available to Canadian residents and those already living in the country. China’s Yi Cao, a full-time Canadian resident, captured the points title and earned an invitation to the 2021 RBC Canadian Open.
PGA TOUR Series-China
In early December, 2019, the PGA TOUR Series-China leadership team began meeting, understanding that coronavirus in China was posing a major threat to the Series and putting its season in jeopardy. After months of creating scheduling models that included holding events outside of Greater China, officials realized there were too many hurdles to overcome, and on July 21 the Series canceled its season.
“We made every effort and tried to be as creative as we could in looking for ways to hold tournaments for our members,” said Greg Carlson, PGA TOUR Series-China Executive Director. “In the end, with travel restrictions and border issues in China and other Asian countries, there were too many obstacles preventing us from moving forward.”
Officials continue to monitor the situation in China, and as of late November they had yet to make a decision about competing in 2021.
When it became apparent that the International Tours would not be able to play in 2020, Rob Ohno, the PGA TOUR Head of International Tours, put his team to work. After surveying the membership of all three Tours, Ohno announced the LOCALiQ Series, a set of seven 54-hole tournaments for International Tour members, with a culminating, season-ending 72-hole event for the top-78 points-earners. The first seven tournaments took place in the southeastern U.S., with Georgia and Florida hosting three tournaments each; a seventh event was held in Alabama. COVID-19 concerns forced the Series to move its season-ending LOCALiQ Series Championship from the Bahamas to TPC Sugarloaf in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth.
Bryson Nimmer, a Mackenzie Tour player, won the first two tournaments and lost in a playoff in another. Nimmer won the points title and a 2021 PGA TOUR start at the RBC Canadian Open. David Pastore won the LOCALiQ Series Championship to finish second, earning a start at the Barbasol Championship. Third in points was Carson Young, who will play in the Puerto Rico Open.
“The money is awesome, especially at a time like this when we don’t have a lot to play in,” Nimmer said. “But I would say more than anything to be able to test your game is what matters most. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to play. In these kinds of events, with 144 players, it’s just a whole other level.”
Said Ohno, “It’s been really gratifying to put these series of tournaments together when it looked like 2020 would be a lost season. I couldn’t be happier for our players.”
By Laury Livsey