Pat McCabe prefers to think about what the American Express 2021 golf tournament had, not what the tournament didn’t.
âIt took a lot of work to get what we could have,â said McCabe, the American Express tournament director. âYes, it’s a shame that we weren’t able to have spectators. Yes, very unfortunate that we weren’t able to have a pro-am. But look, we still had the event, and we had 156 of the best golfers in the world.
Banned from having a gallery due to Riverside County’s COVID-19 protocols and having chosen to cancel the 156-player pro-am due to the pandemic, The American Express in January looked nothing like the PGA event Tour organized in the desert every year for the last six decades.
Six months into the 2022 tournament, McCabe said he expects the tournament to return to a pre-pandemic aspect next January, with fans, pro-am players, and even concerts at the PGA West driving range in La Quinta.
âCalifornia having more people vaccinated than any other state in the country shows promise,â McCabe said. âI was fortunate enough to spend time at the US Open at Torrey Pines (in San Diego in June) where there were over 12,000 to 14,000 people a day. So yes, I say I am cautiously optimistic.
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McCabe also said the team at SportFive, the company that runs the event for the Phil Mickelson Foundation, understand that restrictions and protocols can easily change as COVID-19 and its variants cause an increase in reported cases in California and Across the country.
âWe’ll look a lot more like 2020 (2021),â McCabe said. âEverything is going in this direction. But of course, health and safety is the priority. So we’re going to do our due diligence like we did last year and make sure everything is up to code and appropriate CDC measures. “
First on the list of returns to pre-pandemic days is the return of fans to the tournament. In 2020, the American Express drew about 20,000 people a day for golf and evening concerts, but there were no ticket sales in 2021. Riverside County had banned large gatherings of people in inside or outside before the January tournament.
âWe missed the fans. I think the players missed the fans and that energy, âsaid McCabe. “With such a strong golf market, we are optimistic that we will be able to accommodate them again to some extent.”
The tournament pro-am is also expected to return, McCabe said, bringing 156 fans into the wilderness to foursome with the PGA Tour pros on the first three days of the four-day event. Two pros and two amateurs play in each quartet. The pro-am was a late scratch from the 2021 event, but it wasn’t the county or state that pulled the plug.
âWe all intended to lead the pro-am, we really did. There were only about 10 days left, but again working with the PGA Tour and American Express with our group, the state of California being as it was, we just jointly decided that was the best for all entities (to cancel pro-am), âMcCabe said. âAnd we really made the right choice.
The pro-am, which offers three rounds of play with a PGA Tour pro and parties during the week for $ 29,000, is raising more than $ 2 million for the event. McCabe said pro-am spots could sell out before the summer ends.
Pro-am generates income for the tournament
â(The pro-Am players) were totally understanding and ready to say, hey, I get it, but count me for next year,â McCabe said. âWhen you hear that 365 days before the next year, you’re off to a good start. And that movement really continued throughout the summer.
The long-running La Quinta Country Club tournament will also return to the tournament in 2021. With the pro-am canceled last January and anxious to limit player travel during the week, tournament officials have decided to use only two course, the TPC Stadium course and the Nicklaus Tournament course at PGA West, rather than three courses. Both PGA West courses operate from the same clubhouse.
âConsidering the situation last year, it was very understandable when they canceled because the spectators were not going to be there. It wasn’t going to be a great member experience for us, âsaid Bruce Zahn, General Manager of La Quinta Country Club.
La Quinta has been part of the tournament since 1964. The tournament still paid the annual site fee to the course for the 2021 event, which was already in tournament state. McCabe officially told Zahn in June that the tournament wanted to resume course for 2022.
âWe knew it was a temporary situation, assuming everything was going to get back to normal,â Zahn said. âWe’re delighted he’s back. It is a big part of our history and our heritage. We are happy to have it.
The big question for 2022 could be the tournament concert series, which saw two nights of concerts at the PGA West driving range event for the three years leading up to the pandemic. In 2020, the performers were rock singer Stevie Nicks on Friday and County star Luke Bryan on Saturday. About 20,000 people bought the $ 50 tickets each day, tickets that included golf during the day and concerts in the evening.
Sponsor likes concert series
âAmerican Express, one of the things, as much as they love the pro-am, they also love the off-the-rope amenities that this tournament is able to provide to the local community,â McCabe said. âMusic and concerts, this experience is important to us. We have had some success in what we have been able to do. And we pay attention to what’s going on.
McCabe said that a recent desert concert by country star Toby Keith, the rescheduling of the BPN Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells for October and the announcement of a lineup for the Stagecoach country music festival in April Next, everything indicates that the American Express will be able to have at least a few fans on the driving range for the American Express concerts.
As COVID-19 numbers continue to fluctuate, McCabe said he is confident in the work his SportFive team and the City of La Quinta will do to ensure the tournament runs as a PGA Tour event. but within the framework of potential health and safety protocols. Linda Evans, Mayor of La Quinta, is one of the board members of the Mickelson Foundation.
âThey really gave us and the county a pretty clear direction in helping us reach the finish line,â said McCabe. âWe had a golf tournament, we had 156 of the best players in the world. We’ve raised over $ 1 million for local charities through American Express. So we have to put this silver lining on it. “
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer, he can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.