Smalley Bunker Shot

Defending champion Alex Smalley chips out of green side bunker at 11th during the final round of the Sunnehanna Tournament for Champions on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

A message on the official website of the Sunnehanna Amateur addresses the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Presently we have every intention of playing this year’s Sunnehanna Amateur. We will continue to monitor the recommendations of public health officials and government. We have several months to make a decision if we would need to cancel. In the meantime, please be safe, look after yourselves, your family, friends and community. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope we are in a far better place in a few weeks.”

The statement by Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions co-chairman John Yerger reflects the uncertainty faced not only by sporting events but also society in general since the pandemic began dominating the news.

“Everybody is affected by this. Everybody. We’re going to get through it together,” Yerger said during a telephone interview.

The 67th annual Sunnehanna Amateur is scheduled for June 17 to 20 at the par-70 Sunnehanna Country Club course.

“The obvious concern, we’re getting texts and calls, ‘Is the tournament going to be played?’ We’re hopeful,” Yerger said. “The U.S. Open is the same week (June 18-21) as the Sunnehanna Amateur. From what I can gather, the USGA has every intention of playing the Open if possible. If the U.S. Open is played, then hopefully we plan on playing as well. But no decision is being made on the tournament.

“We’re going to move forward planning to have the tournament,” Yerger added. “But the situation will certainly warrant discussion in mid-May as to whether we would have to cancel it. But no decision has been made one way or the other.”

Traditionally, the Sunnehanna Amateur attracts the top collegiate golfers from throughout the country.

The NCAA canceled all spring sports championships last week, including the golf championship tournaments at the conference and national levels. The entire spring season has been canceled.

“The NCAA ruled that college seniors have the ability to go back to school for another year if they wish to participate in spring sports,” Yerger said.

The NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee announced its leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports.

Yerger noted that should Sunnehanna be able to host the June event, the NCAA situation potentially could increase the number of golfers hoping to participate.

“Some players that would have been playing professional golf may elect to play amateur golf this summer because they need a place to play,” Yerger said of players who might opt to return to NCAA competition next spring. “It could have a profound impact. We could get absolutely overwhelmed.”

Of immediate concern, Yerger said people should follow guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This has a huge impact on everybody,” Yerger said. “We’re going to find out more as we go along. Let’s just hope that this does not spread and that we don’t get medical systems overwhelmed. Everyone’s focus should be on being good neighbors, good friends, good children, good fathers and mothers and looking after each other. That’s what this is about right now.” 

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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