When PGA resumes for Hoge, events may look similar to the 'Play It Forward' challenge
FARGO — There were a few birdie putts on Tuesday afternoon that Tom Hoge would probably have wanted back, with every one of them either lipping out or sitting precariously on the edge of the cup. The response was greeted with a minor groan of sorts from people watching.
The Fargo South graduate also sank a couple of impressive birdie putts, and the people approved appropriately. The thing is the “crowd” at the Bell Presents Play It Forward charity golf event at the Fargo Country Club and the fans who will be on hand when the PGA Tour resumes in June will be about the same.
“It will be different,” said Hoge, who has been on the PGA Tour since 2015. “There will be some adjustment for sure and more than anything, just that excitement and energy to get you up when you’re playing that fourth or fifth week in a row. You’re going to miss that.”
The Play it Forward event matched Hoge and Matt Cullen vs. Amy Olson and Josh Duhamel in a best-ball format. It will be aired on ABC state-wide Sunday, May 31 from 6-9 p.m. with Bell Bank, Dakota Medical Foundation, Eide Bailly LLP, Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops and Forum Communications Company collaborating in matching gifts up to $100,000. The online donation box is open right now at dfmhelpinghearts.org .
The event followed social distance guidelines expected on the PGA Tour when it resumes with the Charles Schwab Challenge June 11-14. Hoge said he was told each player will be able to have four credentials for family members.
Those birdie putts that are followed with a thank-you wave to the fans? Players now will most likely walk to the cup and pick up their ball without much of a reaction.
“There will still be some people out there,” Hoge said. “You’ll have volunteers to work for TV, people to keep track of shots and live scoring so there will be more people than what you would expect with no fans. But it will still be different, coming up on 18 and those holes that usually have a lot of people so we’ll see.”
The Golf Channel, in a report, figures a full-blown tourney field will require around 700-800 on site. It’s expected that the PGA Tour is going to place a heavy emphasis on coronavirus testing.
The Schwab tourney, formerly known as The Colonial, will be played at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, which is practically located in Hoge’s backyard. So, at least in starting up, he’ll be playing at a course he’s very familiar with.
“Kind of a home game for me,” he said.
The stoppage in March came at an unfortunate time for Hoge, who was enjoying his best first-half of the season in his six full years on the tour. He’s 23rd on the PGA money list at $1,716,865. He’s had three top-10 finishes with a runnerup to his credit in the first tournament of the season at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
He’s 22nd in the FedEx Cup Standings, important status for retaining his tour card and earning his way into invitational tournaments. He recently received a call from Steve Stricker, the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup, to let Hoge know he is on the radar in making the team. The Ryder Cup is Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits, located north of Milwaukee, Wis., on Lake Michigan.
At the current rate, the tournament schedule from July through the fall promises to be packed with majors and high-caliber events. The 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn., is still on for July 23-26.
“It’s a momentum game for sure,” Hoge said. “Hopefully we’ll get this going. You start talking about a lot of majors this fall, the Ryder Cup, that sort of stuff. If you can work hard and get there, there will be some fun times.”
Fun times, but perhaps without fans. Or limited fans. That walk around the Fargo Country Club on Tuesday in front of cameras, course officials, volunteers, family and media? The PGA Tour may not look much different.
The tour has yet to release official social distance guidelines, but Golf.com reported that basic principals golf courses around the country are using like leaving the flagstick in, no rakes in the bunkers and minimize contact with caddies will apply to the pros.
“We’re talking no fans for the first four weeks, hopefully they’ll figure out how to make it work and get them back out there,” Hoge said.
Editor's note: Hoge was the co-medalist with Clinton Boutelle of Cody, Wyoming and champion of the Pine to Palm tournament in 2009, runner-up in 2010.