The Canadian Tour was going to extraordinary lengths to protect its players and officials from swine flu, while still playing the San Luis Potosi Open in Mexico, the virus’ country of origin, this week.
No fans would be able to watch the event and there would be no caddies. Hand sanitizers would be everywhere and players and officials would be shuttled between the golf course and hotels and encouraged not to go beyond those perimeters.
“I did sort of wonder as I was coming into the office (yesterday) whether we should have even gone into San Luis Potosi, whether we should have just pulled the plug last weekend when we were in Mazatlan,” admitted tour commissioner Rick Janes. “The fact of the matter is that might have been overreacting.”
If it was overreacting, the tour did just that yesterday when it postponed this week’s tournament. That announcement brought to three the number of Mexican events that had been cancelled due to the swine flu outbreak.
There’s a fine line between panic and prudence when battling an invisible monster such as swine flu which, according to the World Health Organization yesterday, is edging ever closer to be being classed as a pandemic.
The circumstances changed dramatically between Mazatlan and San Luis Potosi. Just a few short days ago, swine flu had hardly reached the proportions it has today, so while some players such as Canadian Graham DeLaet pulled out of San Luis Potosi with the blessing of Janes and the tour, others wanted to stay.
In the end, Janes had no problem canceling the tournaments after considering the reach and severity of the virus, which is the right choice despite the original decision to play.
“Actually, I’m going to be perfectly blunt, there isn’t any other consideration other than the welfare of these people,” said Janes. “Getting them out of Mexico in a timely manner is what has precipitated our actions.”
Janes took the responsible route. Had a player or official picked up the virus, not only could he fall ill, but also spread it to others traveling with him or his own friends or family once he got home from Mexico. Conceivably, that could still be the case.
The other thing is that many countries are warning against travel to Mexico, but what about getting out if quarantines are issued and people already there are stuck? The possibility of an extended stay there for officials and players is a chance the tour rightfully didn’t want to take.
“Inbound traffic to Mexico is drawing to a halt and it’s going to be difficult to get people out of Mexico and that’s why we had to do this now rather than later,” said Janes.
The tour had a charter ready to take people to the next tour event, had it been played, but obtaining the proper permits would have meant that plane could not have been flown to the United States until Friday at the earliest, according to Janes.
As of yesterday, some players had made arrangements out of San Luis Potosi, while others were flying to Mexico City to get home from there. Janes added that the tour has travel agents in San Luis Potosi to help make it a smooth exit. “It’s actually going quite smoothly,” he said yesterday.
As it stands right now, the three Mexican events will likely be played in late September and early October, which is fine by Janes, who adds that the tour would prefer to play them at that time of year anyway.
“Early October is absolutely perfect weather and it would give (players) two to three events before PGA Tour (qualifying) school,” said Janes.
For now, however, there are priorities over competition, that being the safe exit of players out of Mexico and the Canadian Tour is not the only golf organization to have to make a tough call.
The Nationwide Tour has postponed the Mexico Open which was to be played in late May at El Bosque Golf Club, about 200 miles northwest of Mexico City.
“A significant number of lives have been lost in Mexico, which is tragic. There are more important things for people to focus on at the moment,” said Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee.
”With regard to new dates, we are in a position where we have options and will begin working with tournament personnel in Mexico to decide when the event will be played,” Calfee added.
Golf administrators, so early in this crisis, have demonstrated that they have their priorities right.