For the first time since golf returned from postponing its season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be fans in attendance at a PGA Tour event. It won’t be on the main stage of professional golf, however. Golf fans will be in allowed at the PGA Tour Champions event.

Andy North PGA Tour event fans
Andy North, left, hosts the Sanford International, and said he is excited fans will be at a PGA Tour event. (Image: Argus Leader)

The Sanford International, which begins Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will permit a limited number of fans. The Argus Leader reported up to 5,000 fans will be allowed to attend.

Tournament organizers said they are advising masks be worn, but aren’t mandating them. They are also encouraging that credit cards be used at concession stands. Temperature checks and hand sanitizer will be provided.

Two-time US Open champion Andy North is hosting the Sanford International. He told the Argus Leader that players in some ways benefit from fans at PGA Tour events.

“The one thing people have to understand about the people playing this sport is they love to show off,” North said. “And it’s not fun to show off if no one’s there.”

PGA Tour Easing into Allowing Fans

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said last week at the Tour Championship the process of allowing fans back in the galleries will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“We will be reintroducing programs and then I think as you look beyond the fall and into ’21,” Monahan said, “Every tournament is starting to plan for multiple potential outcomes and, hopefully, planning towards the return of what we know as normal, and that’s fans on-site.”

PGA Tour professional Kevin Kisner, a player director on the PGA Tour’s nine-member policy board, said the transition to fans will be gradual.

“I think we will transition to spectators as soon as we feel like we have a good plan that the players are comfortable with,” Kisner said. “We need the fans back. Without the fans, the tournaments aren’t the same. The revenues aren’t the same. We need them back. All of us want to play in front of fans. We appreciate the buzz that the fans create. We appreciate having people applauding for our golf shots other than the one or two volunteers on a hole.”

South Dakota a COVID-19 Hotbed

The news that fans will be in attendance at a PGA Tour event comes a month after Sturgis, South Dakota, hosted the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Approximately 250,000 bikers descended on the tiny town with little or no regulations regarding public safety. As a result, there have been 300 COVID-19 cases linked to attendees, with one death reported. Locally, an additional 118 people tested positive for the disease.

The state also hosted two large events recently in the Sioux Empire Fair and the South Dakota State Fair. The state has experienced a spike in reported cases of COVID-19.

South Dakota has the nation’s third-highest rate of coronavirus cases per capita over the past two weeks, according to The Associated Press. They also had the highest per-capita rate in the nation for the past seven days, according to the New York Times.

Governor Kristi Noem has been resistant to banning public events. Back in April, two North Sioux Falls racetracks announced intentions to hold auto races at their facilities. Noem urged people not to go, but didn’t shut down the contests.