When Seamus Power saw the tide of Covid-19 sweep across Europe, closing golf courses in its wake, the alarm bells started to ring for the Irish PGA Tour golfer at his North Carolina base.
His home course of West Waterford followed suit as Ireland went into lockdown and then even closer than was comfortable, in Florida, Texas, California, New York. Yet to his surprise, North Carolina course stayed open and while the PGA Tour went on hiatus, at least Power could keep on practising in his adopted home city of Charlotte.
“I was worried at the start because they were closing it down in Florida and other places and even back home and a lot of other countries,” Power told the Irish Examiner. “I presumed they were going to follow suit here but fortunately for me at least, they didn’t.
“For whatever reason, golf was regarded as an essential activity somehow so courses staying open has been, for me, brilliant.
“They brought in some regulations about not touching the pins and they took away a bunch of small rules but I can go out and do stuff and keep some sort of normality during the daytimes. Evenings you’re stuck at home but at least the golf stayed.”
Power is also fortunate that he can travel to his regular coach Ken Guilford, the PGA head professional at nearby Cabarrus Country Club. “I’ve been lucky, very lucky. I’ve been working with my coach but it’s been different, you know, staying a distance away and all that but I’ve still been able to see him and talk to him so I’ve probably been a better spot than most to be honest. It’s been good.”
He will be hoping that allows him to gain some benefit when play does resume and a further boost was last month’s decision by the PGA Tour to protect the existing status of its members for 2020-21. For when tournaments resume, and the schedule currently is for a return to play on June 8 at the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Club in Texas, Power will at least know he will retain his Conditional Status for finishing between 126 and 150 on last year’s FedEx Cup standings.
Losing full playing rights on the Tour at the end of 2019 was a bitter blow but there now is some security and also the possibility of re-entering the top 125 and regaining top status for next season.
“It was interesting news. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do. The initial delay wasn’t going to affect me too much but restarting in June was not going to be very good for me, so it’s definitely raised the floor for my status, which is good as I’m pretty much in the same spot as I was last year.
“I have Conditional Status, which means I’m staying in the 126 to 150 category as a worst-case scenario. Hopefully I can get into some events this summer and maybe improve it. That’s the plan for now.
“The email from the Tour which we all got said that the plan was still for June 8, so guys will start committing to where they want to play and that will give me a better idea.
"I don’t know but for me, it depends on whether guys can get back into the States or whether guys are comfortable playing. If the answer to those questions is that all guys are going to play then I might not get in much, maybe only a couple before the end of this season.
But there’s a lot of unknowns. I mean, the Tour goes to Detroit, Michigan, and Connecticut, two of the states worst hit so I don’t know if guys are going to want to go up there.
“The hope is to play the first one, at Colonial. If this stuff hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have gotten in there but with all this going on, who knows what’s going to happen.
“They’re expanding some of the fields and doing other things like that so hopefully I can get in. I’ll definitely get a couple, like the opposite-field events, the Barracuda, maybe the John Deere but everything is changing all the time so it’s difficult to predict. If not I’m going to try and play some of the Korn Ferry Tour events and get back into playing a bit, be kind of extra-ready to go for when I do get my chances on the PGA Tour.”
American TV re-runs of the 2016 Olympic golf tournament during the lockdown have given Power pause to reflect on his progress over the last four years. He represented Ireland in Rio alongside Padraig Harrington, Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow and claimed his country’s highest finish, a tie for 15th in the men’s strokeplay. “It’s amazing how quickly those four years have gone past. It’s incredible. I haven’t reached a lot of my goals yet on the PGA Tour but I’m still on the PGA Tour which is definitely part of it. I would have preferred to have been further along at this stage but things can change very quickly in this game.”