HARTFORD, Conn. – The coronavirus pandemic has caused chaos and anguish through the golf world, especially on the rescheduling front.
The Connecticut Section PGA had the rather unique problem of trying to work through difficulties in two states with different regulations. The Section is comprised of clubs and courses in most of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, which had different reopening dates for golf.
“Our team worked very diligently to be responsible to our events and other events in the market place,” Section executive director Tom Hankte said. “Players want to participate, but with the time frame being compressed, you don’t want to overlap with each other. You try not to step on others’ toes. Everything wasn’t taken lightly. It was examined very carefully.”
Dennis Dungee, the Section’s Tournament Operations Director, has been the flashpoint for trying to handle the scheduling dilemmas and “persevere through uncharted times” while dealing with different rules in Connecticut and Massachusetts, which didn’t stop banning golf until May 7.
“When the pandemic reached ‘stay-at-home’ mode, the staff went from thinking about events to giving our best efforts to understand all the orders and restrictions in place so that we could keep the Section membership informed and up-to-date as possible regarding course operations,” Dungee said. “The toughest part was, and really continues to be, that golf was able to continue, under heavy restrictions, in Connecticut but the courses in Western Massachusetts portion of the Section boundaries were ordered to close. So, as both states began the re-opening phases, we tried to be up-to-date and knowledgeable on two different sets of state orders and restrictions.”
Dungee said the Section team realized early that the pandemic wasn’t going away quickly so they started to work on what the changes to the season would look like right away. With clubs and courses having to reschedule their own events and outings, it was difficult to find a place on their calendars, but the Section was able to do so for some of its major events.
“Obviously, with a limited window of time for competition this year, we will forego a few events,” Dungee said. “But the positive side to that is sponsor/partner dollars have been taken from those events that we decided to cancel and moved to events we will operate so prize purse money will be higher than years past in just about every event.”
Dungee said the biggest part of the pandemic was the “unknown” such as when restrictions for no rakes, no touching flags, one rider per cart, etc., would be lifted.
“Many of our Section golf professionals in management roles are working more hours than ever due to limited staff,” Dungee said. “Many assistant/associate professionals aren’t back to work, which leads to the question of who will have time to get away from the busy work schedule to play and if those not working will have the means to cover the financial commitment of entering an event when they aren’t bringing in money.
“We certainly want to give the Section professionals the opportunity to play and did that in the most responsible manner. With that said, we’re being patient and know when the time comes, we would all be together on the golf course again doing what golf professionals do, compete.”
The Section canceled five events, including its Spring Meeting and new Connecticut PGA Open, and moved four major tournaments: the Walt Lowell PGA Tournament at the GC of Avon from May 26 to July 27, the Hartford Women’s Open at Goodwin GC and Keney Park GC in Hartford from June 8-9 to Aug. 22-23, the Charity Classic at Hartford GC from July 20 to Sept. 15 and the Connecticut PGA Championship at Wintonbury Hills GC in Bloomfield from May 18-19 to Sept. 21-22. The winner of the latter event is normally the Section qualifier for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, but the PGA Tour said the 41 Section exemptions don’t exist this year.
The Section’s first event is hosting qualifying for the Travelers Championship on June 25-28. The PGA Tour has made several changes for qualifying with the biggest impact being the reduction of open spots from four to two. On the positive side, 40 players, plus ties, from pre-qualifiers June 17 and 18 at Ellington Ridge CC advance to open qualifying at the same course on June 22. Only 25 players, plus ties, advanced the past two years. The number of players advancing from each pre-qualifier will be based on field size. All players must advance through the pre-qualifying stage unless they are granted an exemption to open qualifying due to their status with the PGA Tour or one of its affiliates. To register for any of the qualifiers, visit