April 29, 2020 / 3:26 PM / a month ago

LPGA targets mid-July start for 2020 season

(Reuters) - The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) is hoping to get the 2020 season under way with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational from July 15-18, the start of what will be a busy second half of the year.

FILE PHOTO: Sep 1, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Yealimi Noh plays a shot from a bunker on the fifth hole at the Cambia Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The tournament at the Midland Country Club in Michigan is one of 21 to be staged between July and December, if a return to play is possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The revised schedule means the Women’s PGA Championship has been postponed from late June to Oct. 8-11, but international travel restrictions remain a major threat for events in North America, Europa and Asia.

“One thing that has become clear is that there will be no ‘opening bell’ regarding a return to safe play in this new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic,” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We have built a schedule that we think is as safe as possible given what we know about travel bans, testing availability, and delivering events that our sponsors and our athletes will be excited to attend.”

The first major of the season, The Evian Championship, has been scheduled for Aug. 6-9 in France, but Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday that sports events in the country would be banned until September at least.

The new schedule would see the LPGA resuming play about a month after the PGA Tour, which is aiming to restart its season on June 11 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I realize that maybe there was a more aggressive path that we could have taken ... but in our world I feel like this was the right path,” Whan told reporters on a conference call, adding that it was too soon to say whether fans would be allowed to attend events.

“If it turns out that we’re a little late to the party but being late to the party enables us and our athletes to benefit from some of the learnings from others.”

Whan said the financial impact of the work stoppage on the LPGA has been “staggering” but said he is focused on its long- term health.

“We’re going to make some decisions that are financially negative in ‘20 ... but they’re all made to make sure that we’re super strong again come ‘21, ‘22, ‘23,” he said.

“The only way COVID really damages the LPGA long-term is if we allow it to by only focusing on 2020.”

Reporting by Nick Said and Rory Carroll,; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond

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