BOSTON (CBS) — The PGA returns to action Thursday following a 13-week hiatus, with golfers getting to hack again at the Charles Shwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
Included in the field is local guy Peter Uihlein, who grew up in New Bedford and Dartmouth before the Boston winters forced him and his passion for golf to move to Florida at the age of 13. Like pros everywhere, he’s been itching to get back onto the course amid the coronavirus outbreak, and eager to play some competitive golf again this weekend.
“It’s nice to be back and nice to see everybody. It’s just been really bizarre, the whole situation with the country on lockdown,” said the 30-year-old Uihlein. “It’s nice to be out playing again and, for us, playing somewhere that isn’t our home course.”
Golf courses never really closed in Florida, so Uihlein has been able to remain pretty sharp over the last three months. Uihlein, whose last action in a tournament came in February’s Puerto Rico Open (he finished eight-under to place 44th), said he didn’t feel any anxiety about returning to play, just some anxiousness and excitement.
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But things have been much, much different since reporting to the Colonial.
“We weren’t allowed to go in the clubhouse to start. Last week at home I had to take a saliva test, which takes 48 hours to get the results. So I did mine Wednesday and was cleared by Friday, then flew out on Monday,” he recalls. “We went to another off-site testing place where they did the swab up the nose. You get a pass and can go register, but you can’t go into the clubhouse. We were allowed to go to the course, go to the range and hit balls and play, but we couldn’t go in the clubhouse.
“It took four hours to get our results back, and when people pass you can use the clubhouse, use the locker rooms and get some food. That’s going to be the norm for the next 4-5 weeks, I think,” said Uihlein. “We were politely asked to stay in the hotels and not to go out to restaurants — stay in and eat at the restaurants at the hotels. It’s different, but it’s kind of the new norm now.”
Golfers aren’t the only ones getting used to these new norms, as caddies now have several rules to follow as well.
“The caddy one is going to be tough to break. We’re not supposed to hand our club to our caddy and our caddy isn’t supposed to hand us a club. They can touch the flags and grab them, and have to sanitize afterwards,” he said. “They had to do a Zoom call last week and were instructed what to do; little things that are going to be tricky to break as habits for golfers.”
The biggest difference will be not having fans watching from the galleries.
“It is bizarre, it’s basically just players and caddies out there and a few media members,” said Uihlein. “We were joking because we didn’t expect to see ropes, and they roped off the course. We were like, ‘Why would you need to do that?’ Keeping out who knows what, squirrels I guess. There is no reason for it but we got it this week.
“It’s just going to be different,” he said of playing on a nearly empty golf course. “We’re entertainers, performers and we like to provide content for people. Going out and being lined with galleries, you enjoy that feeling. It’s going to be bizarre not having people in the crowds clapping. You wont really know if you hit a good shot now.”
Though he calls Florida his home, Uihlein said he’ll always consider himself a New Englander. He isn’t about to jump on the Buccaneers bandwagon now that Tom Brady has joined them, and already has a Jarrett Stidham jersey, which he’ll wear proudly during football season.
All that is keeping him from returning to his home state is the weather — and his wife.
“You know the weather in New England, it’s tough,” he said of his move south 17 years ago. “I still go up north in the summers. My parents still live up there, so Massachusetts will always be near and dear to me. I love New England and all the sports there. I’ve tried to convince my wife to maybe venture up there one day, but she’s a Florida girl so it might be a hard sell.”
You can watch Rounds 3 and 4 of this weekend’s Charles Schwab Challenge on WBZ-TV, with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday!