El Dorado High School is scheduled to host the Simmons Invitational Golf Tournament Monday at the Lion’s Club. The tournament will be the first school sports competition since the COVID-19 pandemic shut the schools down in the spring.
“I’m excited. It’s the first sporting event we’ve had since March,” said El Dorado athletic director Phillip Lansdell. “I’m not that concerned since it will be easy to social distance and we are following the state department’s guidelines. I’m really happy for the kids to get a chance to play.”
The 9-team tournament tees off at 10 a.m.
El Dorado golf coach Chris Ezell said he expects the tournament to go off without a hitch.
“Overall, I’m excited to get to be headed in the direction of returning to normal,” said Ezell. “Golf is one sport where social distancing is almost guaranteed for the most part. When the players are approaching the flagstick, putting would potentially be the only area where the players could be closer than six feet. But golf etiquette alone should space the players out well more than the recommended six feet for social distancing.”
Still, the Arkansas Activities Association handed out two pages worth of recommendations and requirements for golf’s return to play. Ezell said most of them occur naturally during matches and tournaments.
“The most restricting measures for us will be that the scores are not allowed to be posted on the big scoreboards for everyone to see,” Ezell said. “We will handle the results digitally by emailing and texting the coaches. Coaches will then report the results to their teams. We will still be able to take pictures of the winners with social distancing, but it will take a little away from the awards presentation at the end. The players will be required to wear a mask when their groups come in to turn in their scorecards. But they will be able to warm up and play without them. Coaches are still allowed to communicate with the players from green to tee box, keeping more than six feet between them. Some little adjustments there but I am confident we can manage them.”
While the play on the course shouldn’t be impacted much, fans and volunteers will have to make some adjustments.
“One of the biggest inconveniences we will face is that we usually enlist the help of the parents to get all of the competitors out to their starting holes for the shotgun start and we will not be able to have that option Monday,” said Ezell. “Parents will be asked to remain away from their players during the warm-up time and will be allowed to follow their groups from a position well behind and on the cart path. Also, upon completion of play, the parents will need to return to their vehicles and not congregate around the scoring area. That is the biggest change for parents. Normally as the scores are getting posted to the scoreboards, players and parents would crowd around waiting to see the scores coming in.”
There will be some adjustments but for the student-athletes, just being on the course could make them worth the effort.
“Being the opening day of the 2020 season, there are always things that could cause an issue,” said Ezell. “However, this is my 18th year hosting this event and I have really only had two different employees from Simmons Bank that have helped coordinate this event with me along with the golf courses management. So most situations that could happen have already happened before so that experience can help guide us through the tournament preparations and incorporating the COVID requirements. Leslie Carroll (Simmons Bank) has been working their side of things for around 10 years and she does a fantastic job of coordinating the bank employee volunteers and making this event special for the student-athletes.”