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It’s been a year unlike any other for athletes

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The words “sports” and “surreal” have gone hand in hand with one another several times this year. Whether it’s the NHL playoffs starting in August, a drastically shortened Major League Baseball season beginning in late July or the postponement of the summer Olympic Games, 2020 has been unlike any other year for athletics.

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And most recently, The Masters – typically golf’s first major of the season – was its final one this year, having wrapped up on Nov. 15. The tournament is normally played in April and represents the unofficial start to the Canadian golf season (except in parts of British Columbia where there is little or no off-season). It’s what gets me and many others pumped up to hit the links for the first time.

Thanks to some bonus summer weather the first part of November and the chance to squeeze out a couple additional rounds, this year’s Masters represented the end of the local golf season. However, the effect was the same. It got me pumped up to play some more. Unfortunately, my clubs have been cleaned and put away for the winter. Should the next Masters be allowed to return to its usual time slot in 2021, it’s likely it will be what gets me pumped up for another golf season.

Why The Masters was so surreal this year, aside from its fish-out-of-water scheduling, were all the other elements that make this event so special and my personal favourite among golf’s four majors. The most obvious departure from the norm was the lack of fans – pardon me…patrons. It was deafeningly quiet in Augusta, Ga. The roars generated by the patrons when an eagle has been made or following a holed 50-foot putt adds an indescribable amount of energy to the event.

It’s not just the sounds at The Masters that makes this tournament so special. It’s the sights, too. In its normal April time slot, Augusta National Golf Club is a sea of colour with its flora in full bloom. Everything this year was pretty much green.

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And, this being November, dusk arrived much earlier than it does in April, forcing golfers to play the final two days in threesomes with split tee starts.

Nevertheless, the golf itself was its usual quality, and the back nine on Sunday had its share of memorable moments. Still, it was all so surreal to watch.

Sports are only going to get even more surreal as we plod along through this pandemic. The NHL season looks like it won’t get underway until January, and the means to solve the cross-border dilemma has yet to be resolved. The bubble concept, which worked effectively during the playoffs as a means to keep a lid on the spread of COVID-19, isn’t being looked upon favourably for the coming regular season due to the lengthy separation of players from their families. How that and the border issue will be resolved remain a work in progress.

Still, having live sports to watch on television is a much-needed escape from what is going on in the world, even if there are no fans in the arenas, ball parks and golf courses, or if they happen to be mere cardboard cut-outs. With winter coming and people being pushed indoors, televised sports are a welcomed distraction. One of these days, the sporting world will return to the way it was. I look forward to that day.

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