Caddies explain how the first week of the PGA Tour’s ‘new normal’ went at Colonial

Chris P. Jones
Chris P. Jones rubs his hands together after using hand sanitizer near the 12th tee during a practice round for the Charles Schwab Challenge. Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

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Things are understandably different on the PGA Tour as it’s 2019-20 season resumed last week at Colonial following a three-month hiatus due to concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

For starters, there’s extra work for players and caddies before they even travel to tournament venues in the form of an at-home COVID-19 test kit.

Kyle Peters, caddie for Corey Conners, gave us a look at that a couple weeks back:

 

On this week’s ‘Under the Strap’ podcast, we welcomed two more caddies who were in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Charles Schwab Challenge – Kenny Harms (caddie for 2019 Schwab champ, Kevin Na) and Chris P. Jones (caddie for Jimmy Walker) – to get a closer look at what the new normal was like.

First up, the aforementioned at-home test kit.

READ: 2019-20 PGA Tour winning player and caddie pairs

“I got it on a Friday, nine days before the tournament started,” Harms told TCN. “And I didn’t do it until Monday, just being that if I took it on Friday, it wouldn’t get there until Monday. My understanding is that they need to get that test immediately within 48 hours or 24 hours to get a more precise COVID-19 positive or negative. I sent it out on Monday. Tuesday, I got an email that they received it and an hour later it said I was negative. It was pretty smooth, to be honest.

And here’s how it worked.

“I got on the phone with the lady to go through the whole instructions,” Harms said. “It was a Zoom video like we’re doing right now. It took probably about five minutes to get enough saliva because it was in the morning and you weren’t able to eat or drink anything an hour before, so that was probably the hardest thing. I kept on looking and saying, ‘alright, alright, we’ve got enough in there. We’re good to go,’ and then sealed it up and sent it out from a FedEx dropbox and they got it the next day. So, it went smoothly.”

Jones said his experience was smooth, as well.

“The spit took a while with the no drinking,” he said. “I got mine on a Thursday, so it sounds like that was a day before Kenny got his. I think it was available to take at 8 a.m. east coast time for a Zoom meeting, so I got up around 5 a.m. on Friday morning, got on and tried to get it done with right away. I got someone at like 5:10 a.m. west coast time. I was doing the spit test thing on Zoom with the nurse and, actually, it was funny. I was like, ‘You ever thought you’d be watching somebody on Zoom spit into a bottle?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, I’m trying to figure out how to put this on my resume.’ So, I did it Friday morning, first thing. I sealed it up – you do all that in front of them – and had to wait until 9 a.m. to take it to the FedEx when it opened by me in Reno. I dropped it off at 9 a.m., went out and played golf. Saturday by like 12 or 1 o’clock, my time, I had an email saying I was confirmed negative, no corona in the spit test, so that cleared me to come on out to Fort Worth.”

As has been well-documented, the at-home test was not mandatory for players and caddies, but it was highly encouraged.

“If you didn’t do the saliva test before you showed up and then you show up and you test positive for corona with the swab, the you’d be on your own dime as far as quarantine, hotel, food and all that,” Jones explained. “Whereas if you did the saliva test at home, passed it and then showed up to Fort Worth and failed it, they would help you out with your financials.”

That at-home test wasn’t the only test players and caddies had to take either. Upon arriving in Fort Worth, they had to head over to nearby Dickies Arena to take the nasal swab test, as documented here by Peters:

“We (Jones and fellow caddie Scott Sajtinac, with whom he was rooming with) woke up about 7:30-8 o’clock Monday morning,” Jones said. “First thing we did is go out to the Dickies Arena out here in Fort Worth and pulled in a parking lot. There weren’t many people there. We showed our ID, gave our birthdate and our social security and they put us on the chair and stuck a swab up our nose.

“It was uncomfortable, but I’m not going to say it hurt,” he said. “And it wasn’t that big a deal. I think some guys make a big deal out of it, but I don’t think it was that big a deal. I could do that every week, easily, and not be bothered. It made me tear up and it was a little uncomfortable, but I’ve had a lot worse feelings in my life. I waited about four hours and got a text saying ‘not detected’ and I was able to go register at the course and get a wristband that they give us for the week to show that we passed and then it was back to work as normal. Not too much different at the golf course. I didn’t wear a mask on the course. There weren’t too many guys doing that. We were trying to be careful with the social distancing and work as normal after that.”

Aside from the test, Harms said players and caddies had their temperatures checked when arriving at the course each day. Then, it was business as usual.

“Kevin (Na) is staying with me at a friend’s house, so we drive in on his courtesy car,” Harms said. “When you pull up, they ask you two questions: ‘Have you been around anybody? Do you have any symptoms?’ You say, ‘no, no.’ They hit you in the head with a thermometer. It was 97.8 – I think it was 97.8 every day. Then you go in and you park. We had the parking right up front because Kevin was a past champion, get out of the car and go to work.

“The Tour – they haven’t made it mandatory – but they really want us staying in one place. Not going out, eating at the local establishments, having a couple of beers, so it’s pretty much when you get done, we go back to the house. I picked up food twice and other than that, we’ve had delivery every single day. We hadn’t been anywhere until last night when I went to the wine store and bought my host some bottles of wine to put in their cellar. Other than that, it’s golf course, sleep, golf course, sleep. You just keep doing the same thing over and over again. And it’s probably going to be like that for the next 3-4 weeks.”

You can listen to the complete podcast with Kenny Harms and Chris P. Jones in the player at the top of the page, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher by searching “Caddie Network.”

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