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PGA Tour’s pandemic response a test case for other leagues

The PGA Tour has served as the guinea pig for major professional sports working their way back into competition during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, it’s been a success, but there have been a few cracks over the first four weeks of play.

Six players, two caddies and at least one family member of a player have tested positive for the virus, leading the PGA Tour to further tighten the bubble around tournaments this past week. And with the first fans allowed on the course in just two weeks and coronavirus numbers spiking all across the country, Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan is working overtime to protect his players and the game.

The most significant change is that players, caddies and other essential personnel are no longer allowed on tournament grounds until their test results come back negative. Previously, players could use practice facilities while awaiting the outcome of their tests.

“As we all learn more about how to navigate this complicated COVID-19 environment, we appreciate the continued dialogue with medical experts and with the Centers for Disease Control directly as we fine-tune our Health Safety Plan accordingly,” Monahan said Wednesday. “Today’s changes — and those announced over the past week — illustrate our commitment to preserving the health and well-being of our athletes, constituents and our impact on the communities in which we play, as well as a willingness to make medically sound adjustments that allow our players to compete safely.”

As the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball begin to gear up for the return to play, the PGA Tour is under a microscope. As a sport without any physical contact and simple procedures for social distancing, any failures in golf could sound alarms to leaders and players in other sports.

“The continued success of our return to golf depends on that approach,” Monahan said.

Southern Nevada Amateur Championship

A familiar name found its way to the top of the leaderboard at last weekend’s Southern Nevada Amateur Championship at Paiute Golf Resort’s Snow Mountain course.

Brady Exber, the nine-time Southern Nevada Golf Association Player of the Year, overcame howling winds Sunday to post a three-shot victory over Cameron Barzekoff in the Championship division.

Exber led after a first-round 68 on Saturday, then managed a 75 Sunday on a day in which no player broke par as winds blew up to 40 mph.

“I just tried to manage my high side,” Exber said of the final round. “I didn’t want to make any big numbers. My goal was to get the ball on or near the green and just get it up and down.”

In the Senior Gross division, Todd Roberts won a scorecard playoff against John Bobroski to earn the title. Both finished at 5-over 149. Roberts is the reigning SNGA Senior Player of the Year.

Other winners included Jay Ship (Championship Net), Jack Kalmanson (Senior Net), John Turk (Silver Gross) and Loren Little (Silver Net).

Nevada State Junior Amateur

SNGA players dominated the Nevada State Junior Amateur, taking home titles in all four divisions Thursday at Legacy Golf Club in Henderson.

In the Girls 15-18 division, Riana Mission shot the only subpar round of the week in her division, a final-round 71, to finish at 1-over 145 and hold off Samantha Phelan by one shot.

Rivers Common, 12, cruised to a seven-shot victory in the Girls 13-14 division, finishing at 7-over 151.

In the Boys 15-18 division, Nicholas Kilgore shot a final round 68 to finish at 6-under 138 to beat Andrew Hawk by a shot and Austin Smith by two. The trio had pulled away from the rest of the field.

In the Boys 13-14 division, Bradley Bourn’s final-round 69 took him to 2-under 142 and a one-stroke victory over Elijah Marshall.

Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at robertsongt@gmail.com.

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