How Dublin, Ohio Went for the Memorial Tournament

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DUBLIN, Ohio – In a typical year, the Bogey Inn prepared for a party this week. While PGA Tour golfers practice their trade at the nearby Memorial Tournament's Muirfield Village Golf Club, the sports bar would welcome a crowded crowd of fans to enjoy a live band on its expansive deck equipped with a disco ball.

Mark Dombek, the general manager of the restaurant, said that as many as 30,000 guests have passed through the tournament week in recent years. He braced himself for a quieter scene this year as the event, a hallmark of downtown Ohio's summers, will be played without fans this weekend due to concerns about the increase in coronavirus infections.

"We will probably only do 30 percent of what we would normally do this year," said Dombek. "It will be a huge hit for us."

The tournament will start again Attracting big golfers to the course designed by Ohio-born Jack Nicklaus and reconfigured annually to his specifications for top flummox players Daniel Sullivan, Executive Director of the tournament, said the Memorial would normally be $ 35 to $ 40 million for the local economy, according to the most recent economic study from ten years ago.

This summer, nearby hotels have seen a sharp downturn for what is usually their largest revenue generator of the year. estimated that it was only 60 percent occupied.

In June, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine approved a plan for the event to receive a limited number of fans – approximately 8,000 a day – but the PGA Tour sank as infection rates increased. The Sullivan team had developed a task force to address the fan problem and had spent months preparing for back-to-back tournaments on the PGA Tour for the first time since 1957.

The reversal forced a logistics hub at Muirfield, which was also the location of last week's Workday Charity Open. "We had every goal and intention to have fans," said Sullivan. "Disappointing, no doubt, but completely out of everyone's control."

The Memorial staff had intended to use radio frequency identification technology in the badges distributed to fans, guiding visitors through a system of so-called corrals where they could watch the action while a "cartridge ambassador" monitored the number of people entering the room using the technology.

Anticipating that large crowds would try to follow Tiger Woods, returning from a five-month tour before the event, Sullivan said they would be walking around a 'pattern ambassador with a paddle saying: # 39; Be smart. Stand out, "when Woods, a 15-time grand champion, came close.

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, called the plan" as thorough as it can get, "but said on Wednesday that he eventually decided to go on without fans after looking at the number of cases and getting player input.

Woods acknowledged at his press conference on Tuesday that playing was a risk. "I know the tour did a fantastic job by setting safety and trying to ensure that we are all protected and safe, "he said." But there is a risk that we are now taking when we walk across the grounds and are around individuals whose you do not know where they have been or what they have done. "

For players who have experienced unprecedented changes in the PGA Tour calendar, adapted to new social distance protocols at events and concerned that fellow & # 39; s and caddies tested positive for the coronavirus, the reversal of having fans at the Memorial was just an adjustment in an unusual season.

Jon Rahm, the number 2 ranked golfer in the world, said last week that coming to Ohio felt like a postponement after the increase in business in Arizona, where he lives. Rahm was one of the tour golfers who stayed in Ohio after playing the tournament last weekend at Muirfield, where Collin Morikawa defeated No. 3 Justin Thomas in a playoff.

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The working day made for an exciting Sunday, but no one expects Muirfield to play as friendly as last weekend, when the average round was 72. The main challenge for this weekend, according to the course leader, Chad Mark, was to ensure the integrity of the course from week to week. "One of my biggest concerns was that our staff would let one of our egos get in the way of the course being less than what we would do for the Memorial," he said.

The tour was clear that greens would run faster this week, and with a major renovation of the trail after the commemoration, Mark said he hoped his team could push for more challenging speed and sturdiness.

"We're going to do that comfortably because we don't have to return the course to members," said Mark.

Outside the club gate, the atmosphere around Dublin is considerably subdued. The Workday, fanless and stiflingly hot for the first two days, took place in monastic silence. But Dombek, the restaurant manager and his owner will still try to throw the best party possible.

Last Thursday, the first of three large screens arrived at the Bogey Inn and the restaurant will use the large patio. to bring in more tables for the golf enthusiasts who may turn up.

For the past five years, Paul Sorvold, sales manager at a lighting manufacturer, has brought customers to the Bogey to celebrate tournament week, but he acknowledged that no one will be flying to Dublin this weekend if they are not in the tournament can come & # 39 ;.

Nevertheless, he plans to spend Friday evening with his wife and some friends in the restaurant. "Our local businesses now need us more than ever," he said.

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