FARGO — Their professional seasons were just getting rolling and already local graduates Tom Hoge and Amy Olson were turning in career years. And just like a suddenly-forming thunderstorm, the PGA and LPGA halted play because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s like an extended rain delay, which is how Olson is treating the latest stoppage. The LPGA already announced the cancellation of events overseas in February. The latest update has events postponed through early May.
Last week, after the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix was axed two days before the tournament, Olson did play in a Cactus Tour event at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, a mini-tour played mostly in Arizona. Her main objective was to test new Ping clubs.
“Just trying to put them under a little pressure to see how they felt and performed,” she said.
They performed OK, although Olson admits she’s reluctant to change. She finished in a tie for fourth with rounds of 68-69-70 for a 9-under-par 207. LPGA pro Anna Nordqvist and Lisa Pettersson, both from Sweden, tied for first at 15-under, with Nordqvist winning on the second playoff hole. The tourney had only 27 golfers with players limited to one per cart if they weren’t walking.
They were also asked to adhere to social distance regulations. Post-round hugs or handshakes, for instance, were replaced with waves. Golf courses have remained open in Arizona.
“Apparently it was the only line item in Vegas for a period of time,” Olson said. “Hungarian soccer I guess came up. It was the only thing going on.”
Olson said she was aware of one player receiving backlash in social media “for not doing her part with social distancing and isolation.”
“Honestly, the way every single player felt about it is if the golf courses are still open, we’re going to be out there,” she said. “We played in twosomes. How much more spread out can you get? It seems like fresh air is the best place you can be.”
Olson is back in Fargo. She has a putting mat in her foyer. She’s doing a couple drills in her living room and is preparing to not play until mid-May.
Hoge said he may play in a mini-tour once the PGA Tour starts to think about playing again.
“The thought crossed my mind to play a warmup,” he said. “But things are changing every day. We’ll see where we’re at.”
Hoge played the first round at the prestigious The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on Thursday, March 12. By Friday, he was flying back to his home in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I had been playing well pretty much every week and to be at The Players Championship and to have it canceled, that was frustrating,” Hoge said. “But it’s hard to get too selfish when you look at it with the perspective of everything that is going on.”
What is going on put a halt to a season where Hoge already had a career-high in earnings at $1.7 million, which has him 23rd on the PGA Tour money list. He had six top-25 finishes among the eight cuts that he made.
And the PGA was just about to get into the meat of its schedule.
“I was for sure playing the best golf of my career,” Hoge said. “It’s just kind of a weird time. The only time we have a break like this is Thanksgiving through January and you know when you’re going to start up again. You know when to start practicing. This feels weird because there is so much uncertainty when we’re going to get ready to go again.”
Hoge said normally he begins practicing with some intensity a week and a half to two weeks before the first tournament after a layoff. That mainly consists of being at the course all day working on various drills and shots.
His home course in Fort Worth closed the common areas like the clubhouse. Golfers can still walk and play the holes.
Olson’s main go-to offseason practice areas are the Golf Addiction in south Fargo and a simulator at Oxbow Country Club. Both facilities are closed and Olson said she doesn’t necessarily want to hit balls for a couple of weeks anyway.
That second-place finish at the Women’s Australian Open in early February? Probably seems like a distant memory.
“A lot of down time right now,” she said.