Korean tournament offers window into future of what golf may look like

Sung Hyun Park golf swing

Sung Hyun Park is among the elite players taking part when they might normally not be.

Getty Images

The first full-field professional event in months will be abnormal, but it will serve as an example for how golf tournaments can be played across the world moving forward.

The Korean LPGA Championship, which begins Thursday in Yangju, will feature its biggest purse ever — three times last year’s — and will limit access to a small number of essential workers (media, agents, staff, etc.). All people on the tournament grounds will have their temperature taken daily and will be asked to wear masks throughout. It is unclear if that means players will have to wear masks while they play. Everyone will also fill out a mandatory checklist each day to help track whereabouts and to aid in contact tracing. 

The KLPGA has promised players the safest environment possible, which includes what they’re calling an “Urban Range.” Players arriving at the range will walk through a UV sterilizing sanitizer before having their temperature taken with a thermal imaging camera. Once on the range, players will be expected to keep driving range stations open between each other. There will be a separate area blocked off for stretching and exercises.

Indoors, player dining will have a new look with individual dining tables. The KLPGA say the lounge, which will be disinfected four times daily, will replicate the elegance and comfort of a 5-star hotel. Caddies will be allowed, but all persons on site will be asked to minimize their contact with groups of people off the grounds after play has ended each day.

In the event of a confirmed case of coronavirus on site, a special tent will be used to quarantine that person for an indefinite amount of time while an investigation of their contacts is made.

The purse increase — to about $2.4 million — is the result of one clear priority from KLPGA officials: give players who have been affected by the spread of the coronavirus a bigger purse to make up for lost tournaments. A normal season would have featured six events by now. And so, tournament organizers have also bumped the number of competitors from 144 to 150, with all 150 earning a check by the end of the weekend. It helps that the event is considered a major championship in Korea, and that its best female golfers are involved.

With the LPGA Tour not scheduled to play until July at the earliest, four top 15 players in the world — Sung Hyun Park (3), Sei Young Kim (6), Jeongeun Lee6 (10) and Hyo Joo Kim (13) — will be in the KLPGA field. Last year, only one of them took part.

“If golf fans can see the players at the ‘KLPGA Championship’ do their best and tell us ‘you’re giving us something to be happy about,’ I could ask for no more,” Park said in a press release. “I hope this tournament and the performances of the players can be a turning point for the people who are going through challenging times.”

Lastly, the event has been given an official slogan: “Overcome COVID-19, Let’s Go Korea!” According to the KLPGA, the event’s broadcast will be shared with more people than ever before, and SBS Golf network is also increasing its broadcast window times by four hours.

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Sean Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just published his first book, which follows his travels in Scotland during the most pivotal summer in the game’s history.

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