Course at SentryWorld in Wisconsin to remain closed all year as opening of resort’s inn is delayed

Completion of the new Inn at SentryWorld is delayed by the COVID pandemic, and the resort opted to keep the newly renovated course closed.

STEVENS POINT, Wis. – The Inn at SentryWorld will open later than originally planned.

SentryWorld announced last week that while it intended to open its new hotel, The Inn at SentryWorld, in mid-August, the shipments of furniture and other materials have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of those delays, the hotel will open sometime this fall, the company said.

Rick LaFrombois, Sentry’s public relations specialist, said it’s hard to estimate a timeline, as the shipping delays continue to be unpredictable.

The Inn at SentryWorld overlooks the golf course, so as construction will continue later than planned, SentryWorld said it wanted to be finished before reopening the golf course to the public. While SentryWorld will still host larger golf outings that have already been scheduled, it will not open the golf course to the public through the end of this year.

The course had been slated to reopen in August. It has remained closed since not reopening seasonally during the COVID pandemic in 2020, and it has undergone a renovation to prepare it as the host of the 2023 U.S. Senior Open. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout ranks No. 9 in Wisconsin on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for public-access layouts.

The Inn at SentryWorld is slated to open this fall after a delay caused by supply issues related to the COVID pandemic. The golf course will remain closed until 2022. (Courtesy of SentryWorld)

“I’m not altogether surprised that COVID-related supply chain issues that have affected so many aspects of U.S. commerce have affected SentryWorld this year,” said Mike James, SentryWorld’s general manager. “Nevertheless, it’s a disappointment. While I regret having to deliver this bit of bad news, I’m exceedingly confident that you’ll love the end result.”

Other amenities at SentryWorld are open, however. PJ’s, the Pro Shop, the fieldhouse, banquet and event spaces are all open.

NFLPA pushing for an all-virtual offseason again in 2021

The NFL players association is once again pushing for an all-virtual offseason due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic in 2021.

It’s almost time for NFL clubs to begin their offseason programming, and similar to last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the offseason could be conducted virtually.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero provided the latest update on the union’s stance.

“NFLPA President JC Tretter told players on a call today the union is pushing for an all-virtual offseason – and would urge players to boycott if teams conduct in-person OTAs this spring, per sources,” Pelissero tweeted. “Said Tretter: ‘We’ve been telling them, it’s voluntary and we’re not gonna go.'”

Under the CBA, the only mandatory workout requirement ahead of summer’s training camp is June minicamp, which Pelissero is reporting the union also wants to keep virtual. Some 300 players stand to lose their workout bonuses if they opt to skip the OTAs.

Nothing is yet set in stone and the NFLPA and the owners will continue their talks.

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Golf Datatech: Rounds played and retail sales soared in 2020

The number of rounds of golf played in the United States in 2020 climbed 13.9 percent as people flocked to courses to escape COVID pandemic.

Consider this more evidence that you should book your tee times early: Golf Datatech reported Monday that total rounds of golf played in the United States in 2020 were up 13.9 percent over 2019, largely due to golfers seeking recreational opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That annual increase in rounds set a record for percentage increase since Golf Datatech started tracking rounds played in 1998. The previous record had been a 5.7-percent surge in rounds played in 2012.

Retail sales of golf equipment also surged in 2020, Golf Datatech reported, with $2.81 billion in revenue. That was a 10.1 percent increase over 2019. It gave 2020 the third-highest annual total since Golf Datatech began tracking the industry, trailing only $2.91 billion in 2008 and $2.87 billion in 2007.

“While the global pandemic wreaked havoc on many segments of our economy, the golf industry experienced a significant boost in rounds played and equipment sales,” John Krzynowek, a partner at Golf Datatech, said in a release announcing the surge in rounds played. “On the equipment side, sales increased by low single digits in both 2018 and 2019, but the double-digit gains in 2020 can only be attributed to the pandemic and golf being a respite for so many.”

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Those year-long gains happened despite golf being shut down in many states as the pandemic took hold of the nation in March and April. Rounds played in March fell 8.5 percent versus the same period of 2019, and rounds in April were down 42.2 percent, based on reports by Golf Datatech and the National Golf Foundation.

Then came the surge, as golf was recognized as a relatively safe escape during the pandemic. Rounds played were up 6.2 percent in May of 2020 versus May of 2019, followed by gains of 13.9 percent in June, 19.7 percent in July, 20.6 percent in August, 25.5 percent in September, 32.2 percent in October and 57.5 percent in November. Information for December was released Monday, with rounds played for the month up 37 percent over December of 2019, which no doubt was helped by good weather in winter golf settings such as Florida, Arizona and California.

“Golf Datatech started collecting and projecting monthly rounds-played data in January 1998 and has been the industry’s exclusive monthly metric since that time,” Krzynowek said. “We’ve never seen an annual increase remotely close to this, as the previous record increase occurred in 2012, a year when we had nearly perfect weather across much of the United States and rounds played grew by 5.7 percent. While there is no doubt that the pandemic provided a positive jolt of energy to the golf business in 2020, a warmer and drier climate across broad swaths of the U.S. also generated more potential tee times, which the golf community passionately consumed…and continued to ask for more.”

Increases in rounds played varied greatly by region. The area defined as West North Central by Golf Datatech – Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota – saw a 23.1-percent increase in rounds played in 2020 over 2019. That compares to only a 4.8-percent annual rise – the smallest of any region in the U.S. – in the Pacific Region of California, Oregon and Washington.

It’s important to note that gains aren’t spread evenly across the industry. Some resorts that rely on air travel have been hit particularly hard in the wake of the pandemic as golfers choose to drive to more local and regional destinations. And the percentage increases in rounds played don’t necessarily mean equal increase in revenue, as many clubs have lost income tied to food and beverage as well as events such as weddings.

On the retail side, as well, gains were not even across categories. While revenue for clubs, balls and other hard goods soared, with many equipment makers struggling to fill demand as inventories dwindled, some soft goods categories lagged in sales.

For example, Golf Datatech reported that sales of apparel dropped 14.2 percent in 2020 versus 2019, largely because access to green-grass pro shops was limited by the pandemic and more public-access golfers were booking rounds online. The loss of rounds played at resorts that rely on air travel also diminished total apparel sales, as fewer players were onsite to purchase logo merchandise. Meanwhile, online sales of apparel rose, and despite the overall annual drop, the last two months of 2020 saw an 11 percent increase in apparel sales versus the same period in 2019.

Across the board, Golf Datatech reported that total consumer demand across the golf industry as measured by dollars spent increased 3.2 percent versus 2019.

“Given the state of the golf economy in late spring, anything in positive territory had to be considered a big win,” Krzynowek said, “and December data continues to impress and suggest the business may still have room to run in early 2021. …

“Golf has fared better than many other U.S. industries during the pandemic, as on-course and off-course facilities effectively adapted their operations to accommodate customers while adhering to CDC, local and national health departments guidelines. Overall, the golf industry can be proud of how it has handled the adversity brought on by the pandemic thus far but must always be aware that until a vaccine is distributed, and broad-based immunity is present, we must all continue to be on guard.”

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COVID-19 and the pandemic’s role in saving jobs at Halas Hall

When you peel back the curtain, COVID-19 likely had an impact on this year’s Bears team as they grinded through a unique season.

When Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey met the media on Wednesday morning in the team’s season-ending press conference, the first words out of his mouth were about the COVID-19 pandemic.

He spent time offering his support to those impacted by the virus, and saluted essential workers for their efforts over the past year. He then recognized the league and key members of the organization for their hard work to maintain a safe environment, most notably head athletic trainer Andre Tucker, for his role in keeping the facilities clean and ensuring the team was compliant in the league’s protocol.

The pandemic created a surreal football landscape at Soldier Field, one that was devoid of fan attendance, tailgates in the south parking lot, intimate media access and much more. While the football was the same, the atmosphere surrounding it was completely different. It’s probably a significant reason why general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy still have jobs today.

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous for many businesses and individuals over the last 10 months. It’s changed the way we all live and has presented numerous challenges no matter what line of work you’re in. It’s truly nothing to make light of, but when you peel back the curtain, it likely had an impact on this year’s Bears team as they grinded through a unique season.

Report: Draymond Green, James Wiseman miss Warriors first training camp practice after positive COVID 19 tests

According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, Draymond Green and James Wiseman missed the Warriors’ first camp practice after positive COVID-19 tests.

After a period of individual workouts at Chase Center in San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors were able to open group practice sessions at training camp on Monday. Yet, the Warriors were missing a pair of significant factors on the first day of practice.

Three-time All-Star Draymond Green and 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman were absent for Golden State’s first group practice at training camp.

After Steve Kerr mentioned Green and Wiseman missed practice in a post-practice press conference with media, the Warriors coach declined to specify the reason why both players were out. Kerr told reporters, “you can make your own deductions.”

According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, Green and Wiseman missed the opening practice due to testing positive for the coronavirus.

Via The San Francisco Chronicle:

Forward Draymond Green and rookie center James Wiseman — the No. 2 pick in last month’s draft — missed the Warriors’ first group practice of training camp Monday after testing positive for the coronavirus, a league source confirmed with The Chronicle.

On Tuesday of last week, general manager Bob Myers announced the Warriors would delay their first day of practice due to two players testing positive for coronavirus.

Per league protocols, both players would need to quarantine away from the team for 10 to 12 days and record two negative COVID-19 tests before rejoining the Warriors on the practice floor.

The Warriors aren’t the only team in the NBA navigating through positive coronavirus tests. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, 48 players around the league have tested positive for COVID-19 during the initial testing phase from late November. After a trio of positive tests, the Portland Trail Blazers made the decision to shut down their facility.

Via @ShamsCharania on Twitter:

Although he wasn’t available for Golden State’s first practice, Kerr said he’s “not worried” about the former Defensive Player of the Year.

When he’s ready to go, he’ll be out there. I’m not worried about Draymond [Green]. He’s got a better feel for what we do than anybody. He’ll be fine once he gets rolling with practice.

With Wiseman not on the floor for practice yet, Kerr said the Warriors coaching staff is showing film along with giving him some homework to work on.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the way it goes. Our coaching staff has been showing him tape the last few days. He’s still getting some homework in between now and the time he will be able to play again. It’s not ideal, but nothing’s ideal for anybody in 2020.

Listen to Kerr’s full post-practice presser via Warriors SoundCloud.

While it’s still unclear when Green and Wiseman will officially be able to return to practice, both players will likely miss Golden State’s first preseason game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, Dec. 12 at Chase Center.

Golf has surged in 2020, but nothing beats the ‘Tiger Effect’

Rounds played in the U.S. this year are estimated by the NGF to climb 50 million higher than in 2019, with October seeing the largest surge

The number of rounds of golf played late in 2020 have seen enormous surges versus 2019 as all kinds of golfers – from novices to past enthusiasts reentering the sport – have sought escape from the coronavirus pandemic. But that doesn’t mean 2020 will set the growth record.

Turns out, even this year’s flood of golfers can’t beat Tiger Woods in his youth.

The National Golf Foundation and Golf Datatech, both industry observers tracking rounds played and trends, estimate in a report released this week that 2020 will end with about a 12-percent increase in rounds played in the United States over 2019’s total round played. That equates to 50 million more rounds played in 2020, the second-highest increase of any year reported.

The highest? That would be 1997, when Woods grabbed international fame with his record-breaking Masters title at the age of 21.

The U.S. saw a jump in rounds played of 63 million in 1997 over 1996, according to Golf Datatech. That year spawned what became known as the “Tiger Effect” as players flocked to the game in the wake of Woods’ inspirational April performance.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking a 4-foot putt to win the 1997 Masters with a record-low score of 18 under. He became the youngest winner at 21 years, 3 months and 14 days old. (Photo by Stephen Munday/Allsport/Getty Images)

Not that 2020 has been anything to scoff at, considering the pandemic and the fact that many courses – and the sport in entire states – were shut down for much of the spring and early summer as coronavirus cases first surged.

Since June, not only have rounds played increased each month versus the same periods in 2019, the rate of increase has climbed significantly. In October 2020, rounds played in the U.S. were up 32.2 percent over the same month in 2019. That followed increases of approximately 14 percent in June, 20 percent in July, 21 percent in August and 26 percent in September.

U.S. golf courses had lost approximately 20 million rounds as courses were closed in the spring, according to Golf Datatech, which at the start of May put total rounds played in a 16-percent hole compared to the same period of 2019. But the increases since June have resulted in an increase of 50 million rounds year to date. October 2020 alone saw an increase of 11 million rounds over October 2019.

There are other factors besides the pandemic. Good weather certainly has played a role. But the NGF reported that typical fluctuations in rounds played in the U.S. have averaged less than 5 percent per year for more than 20 years, so golf’s position as a relatively safe recreational activity during the pandemic appears to have played the starring role in 2020’s surge.

Despite all the good news, there is still uncertainty about any long-term gains. A large portion of the surge in rounds played has been by juniors and novices, and it is yet to be seen if those players will continue in golf for years to come or if capture rates will decrease. The NGF also points out that not all business segments are equally enjoying the “V-shaped” recovery and boom in rounds played. For example, resorts that require travel, especially air travel, have not seen the same spikes as locally favored destinations.

And while rounds played at private clubs have soared, that doesn’t necessarily equate to increases in revenues. Dues typically have remained static for existing members, so basically the average cost per round has dropped at many private clubs while maintenance requirements have increased. Meanwhile, food and beverage revenue has dropped for many clubs because players are reluctant to linger in a clubhouse after a round.

Still, all things considered in what has been a terrible year for so many, golf as a whole has proved to be a silver lining as the pandemic continues to storm.

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Did an atmosphere without fans impact Seahawks’ win in Atlanta?

Many NFL teams are playing in empty stadiums due to the coronavirus; did an atmosphere without fans impact the Seahawks’ win in Atlanta?

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons on the road Week 1 and they did it in a stadium without fans. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most NFL teams are playing in front of no audiences for at least the first few games of the season. So is there any truth to home-field advantage?

Coach Pete Carroll talked about the atmosphere and notching a win at an empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

“It was different but it didn’t matter – it didn’t matter to the game,” coach Pete Carroll said during his press conference after the win. “You know, like I say, we were on the road and we didn’t have a crowd screaming at us, either, but like way back when, I always felt like this was going to work out okay because the guys don’t really – they don’t play for the fans on game day. They play the game the way they are supposed to, and there was enough juice and energy there that, you know, it was really fun.”

Granted the “crowd noise” that was pumped into the stadium and broadcast made a huge difference to the viewing audience but Carroll and the players were just glad to be back on the field and playing the game of football.

“It was really a fun game, and locker room was cool before the game, at halftime and after the game, you know, all that good stuff that we love to — we share all the energy, the build up of the game and the finish,” Carroll continued. “It was all there. It’s more exciting, I guess, there’s more atmosphere, of course, but when these guys are playing, they have got to go. The competition on the field was really, really good, both sides.”

The Seahawks will get their next shot to play in front of an empty stadium when they return home Week 2 to face the Patriots for “Sunday Night Football” at CenturyLink Field. Perhaps Seattle will realize just how important the 12s are when the Seahawks take on Cam Newton in primetime.

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Masters without fans delivers huge blow to Augusta economy

Augusta National does not release attendance figures, but projections have placed the tournament’s economic impact in excess of $100 million

AUGUSTA, Ga. –  Augusta National Golf Club’s decision to hold a patron-free Masters Tournament means tens of thousands of visitors will collectively cross the city off their 2020 to-do list.

The club announced Wednesday it would not allow patrons, confirming what Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis predicted last week. The tournament, which was postponed in March, is scheduled Nov. 9-15.

Augusta National does not release attendance figures, but past projections have conservatively placed the tournament’s economic impact in excess of $100 million, as patrons spend money on lodging, food and entertainment.

“The year 2020 has been challenging enough,” said Bennish Brown, CEO of the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We knew the Masters held a bright spot for this community at large, so we will have to wait and see what happens.”

Brown said the absence of tournament fans, or patrons as they’re called at Augusta National, and corporate-hospitality guests will sap revenue from hotels, short-term rental operators, catering companies and transportation providers throughout the region.

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A dim silver lining is that the tournament will still draw thousands of seasonal employees needed to do behind-the-scenes work at the course.

“We’re not going from 60 to 0,” Brown said. “It will just be a tremendously different headcount than what we’re used to seeing in Augusta.”

Prior to this year, the last major disruption to a Masters was the event’s cancellation during the final two years of World War II.

The tournament historically could be counted on to fill up metro area hotel rooms – currently 7,200 – and rented homes, which exceed 4,000 listings. On the Georgia side of the market, which has the majority of rooms and short-term rentals, visitors pay “tournament-priced” room rates as well as a 6% lodging tax, $1 a night local fee and a $5 a night state fee.

Richmond County, for example, collects an average of $1.4 million in hotel-motel tax revenues from the month of April, which is about three times higher than the average month.

Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Sue Parr, who oversees the Masters Housing Bureau, the sole Augusta National-sanctioned home-rental service, said she believes homeowners and renters will work out arrangements for refunds or will hold reservations over for the 2021 tournament.

“All of the above are opportunities for the homeowner and the renter to find that win-win,” she said.

Mike Kerbelis, a luxury travel agent and owner of Southern Travel Agency, said he was not surprised by the club’s decision to go spectator-free. He believes many patrons – particularly those who would have traveled by air – would have been reluctant to visit in the current climate.

“As far as our world is concerned, I think everything is on hold with people and the pandemic,” he said. “There are destinations that are just now reopening with their COVID protocols.”

Parr said the loss of Masters revenue makes it “more important than ever” to support local businesses, which have been reeling from pandemic disruptions since March.

Small businesses hit hard by the pandemic will need all the help they can to survive to next April, she said.

“Clearly, this was not the news we hoped for, but we are still Augusta and we are still home of the Masters,” she said.

Report: NBA and NBPA are in ‘serious talks’ for in-market bubbles for the eight non-restart teams

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA and NBPA are in “serious talks” for the Golden State Warriors and the seven other non-restart teams to join in-market practice bubbles.

It’s been over five months since the Golden State Warriors suited up for a basketball game.

Although NBA action has returned to the court at Disney World, the Warriors are one of eight teams not included in the NBA’s restart plans. Despite their league-worst record eliminating Golden State from the Orlando Bubble, the Warriors could be making their way back to the court for practice in September.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA and NBPA are in “serious talks” for in-market bubbles for the eight teams outside the Orlando Bubble. The in-market bubble program would include daily testing for the coronavirus, individual workouts and group practices with five-on-five scrimmages.

Via @ShamsCharania on Twitter:

With coronavirus restrictions in place, the Warriors have been limited to individual workouts at Chase Center in San Francisco. An in-market bubble would provide Golden State the chance to practice together for the first time in months.

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After injuries ravaged Golden State’s rotation in 2019-20, the Warriors could use extra court time as a unit. New arrivals Andrew Wiggins, Marquese Chriss and Eric Paschall have only spent limited time on the floor with Golden State’s Splash Brother duo. With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson healthy, Steve Kerr and Bob Myers could get a glimpse at what the Warriors could look like in the 2020-21 season.

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Report: Big Ten presidents meeting Saturday, fall sports cancelation still on the table

All options are on the table, including cancellation, according to Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel.

Big Ten football this fall is not a full go.

According to Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel, the presidents of Big Ten universities are meeting today to discuss how to proceed with fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all options on the table.

As Thamel says, momentum is gaining for canceling the fall football season. Earlier Saturday the presidents of the Mid American Conference voted unanimously to cancel fall sports with the plan to move them all to the spring.

While this news is less than comforting to those wanting football this fall, a full cancelation doesn’t seem imminent according to the AP’s Ralph Russo and ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.

So while a decision to scrap the Big Ten season today seems unlikely, there is clearly still concern about playing football this fall at the highest levels of the Big Ten’s 14 members.

The conference has also announced that football practices will not stay on their traditional timeline of a two-day ramp up period to full padded practices. Right now football will be practiced in helmets and shorts for the foreseeable future.

Many Big Ten teams, including Michigan State, began fall camp on Friday. Rutgers is still in a two-week quarantine due to a large COVID-19 outbreak on their team. Northwestern was just cleared to resume workouts after a positive test in their ranks was determined to be a false positive.

We will have more on this story was it develops.

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