Fifteen years ago when U.S. Kids Golf was approached about hosting their up-and-coming World Championship at Pinehurst Resort, there was a concern that the event may be too large for the Pinehurst Resort to handle with 500 plus players. A plan was presented to include not only Pinehurst but other area courses and resorts, and the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst became a reality.
Fast forward to 2020, where the Resort and the Sandhills community is faced again with the daunting task of determining whether the community can safely accommodate the World Championships that have grown to over 2200 young golfers from around the world. And it has been determined that—yes, it can.
U.S. Kids Golf has been working diligently since early March, with input and recommendations from local, state and national health organizations, to determine the feasibility of hosting this year’s World Championships. The decision to move forward with the Championships was made in April, knowing the event would need to be modified to assure the safety and well-being of the players, families, volunteers, staff and local community residents, but most importantly properly following the official guidelines and mandates set by health and government agencies.
U.S. Kids Golf has developed and will follow an extensive COVID-19 safety and operations protocol program that has been adopted by the majority of Professional and Amateur golf organizations.
“The championship field for this year’s World Championships will be primarily United States residents,” said Chris Vonderkall, Vice President of Tournaments for U.S. Kids. “Our international players, which will be greatly limited due to travel restrictions, will come from families that are already living in this country. The field size will be reduced as well as putting our approved safety plan in place for this year.”
The Covid-19 protocols include:
All social gathering activities will be canceled, including the Parade of Nations, social functions, pool parties and the awards ceremonies following the World Teen and Kids World Championships;
Player registration will be moved from one larger gathering to individual registrations at the 13 participating golf courses, with a simplified limited contact process for registering the players;
All tournament paperwork will be sent in advance of the event via email to avoid contact;
The majority of courses will have single tee starts which will limit mass gatherings, and tee times will be extended to every 10 minutes;
A requirement will be in effect to maintain the proper social distancing for all players, families, volunteers and championship staff;
Players and caddies will not be able to arrive for their tee time until 30 minutes prior to their actual tee time;
Players will be encouraged to avoid traditional handshakes prior to and following their rounds;
No shuttle carts or vehicles will be used to transport players during their round;
Bunker rakes have been removed, and the players will be required to leave the flagstick in the hole at all times;
No tee, pencils, ball markers, or any other materials will be distributed at starting tents and players will be required to print their scorecards at home prior to traveling to Pinehurst;
Scoring for the event will include verbal verification of the championships scores at the proper social distance;
Players will be asked to exit the scoring area and participating golf courses following their round;
Frequent handwashing will be mandated, and hand sanitizer will be provided through the golf course clubhouses and starting and scoring tents;
Face masks will be encouraged where social distancing is not possible including weather evacuations and movement within the clubhouses;
Players, family members, volunteers or staff with fever, cough or other COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to stay home and not participate in the World Championships.
The U.S. Kids Golf championship staff has assigned a dedicated staff person to each participating golf course to assure the compliance to these protocols are followed and they have developed event signage to remind all participants and families, for their protection, that they should abide by the established protocols and guidelines.
U.S. Kids Golf has been recruiting volunteers for their championships since early April. The numbers of volunteers that have already signed up has been positive; however, many volunteer positions are still available because potential volunteers have decided to wait out to see whether the championships would be conducted. These adopted protocols will stand for volunteers, and U.S. Kids Golf is doing everything possible to maintain the safety of their dedicated volunteers and the integrity of the championship operations.
“Our Volunteer Committee Chairman and Course Captains are doing an amazing job recruiting volunteers during a very challenging time,” stated longtime Volunteer Chairman Richard Lawson. “Our committees and volunteer positions would normally be full at this point, but we still have quite a bit of work to do to get the required number of volunteers for this year’s World Championships. With the elimination of various committees due to the required safety protocols, we are asking some of the volunteers to shift to open positions with other committees. We are hopeful that we can encourage additional volunteers as soon as possible to assist in operating the event which is only a few weeks away.”
Individuals who are willing to volunteer and to find out which position remain available, can sign up at https://foundation.uskidsgolf.com/tournaments/world-teen/volunteer
Pinehurst and the surrounding communities have benefitted greatly from theses prestigious championships for 15 years, with an annual economic impact for the community of close to $10 million. This year more than ever, the resorts, hotels and businesses in the area are thankful that the event will continue and are pleased at the effort that U.S. Kids Golf is making to ensure safety with a successful event for all concerned.
“We are seeing a very positive resurgence of junior golf participation at many of the junior golf tournaments that are held around the country, many of which that serve as qualifiers for the World Championship,” said Vonderkall. “Junior golf is one of the only sports right now where kids can play and be safe with social distancing at the same time. On behalf of the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, we would like to thank the entire community for their support over the past 15 years, and especially for this year’s modified World Championships.”
Feature photo by Sandhills Sentinel Photographer John Patota.