Picture:123RF/DEKLPFENAK
Picture:123RF/DEKLPFENAK

Working in media, you quickly come to experience news in cycles and you need to be agile and adaptable.

Since the pandemic was declared, previously dominant news items such as Jacob Zuma’s continuing legal travails and Brexit have become mere footnotes in news bulletins and updates.

Sports writers are less pressured, as there is nearly always “something” happening, either to report or to preview — but not now with the score at Coronavirus 1 — Sport 0.

Let’s hope we can reverse this before too long, but whatever the outcome, the coronavirus has induced a global response not seen since World War 2.

Who knows, hindsight may well tell us that in “parking the bus” (to use a soccer analogy), shooting for the heart of the green and not at the flag in golf, or shutting up shop was too conservative or an overreaction.

The loss of a single human life should never be trivialised. However, it might prove that freezing whole sectors of the world’s economy was too high a price to stave off several million deaths and the collapse of health services in those countries that have one, especially if it could potentially leave tens of millions free of the virus.

Ironically, the year is 2020, which neatly sums up the perfect vision of hindsight and the inevitable “I told you sos” are sure to come after this virus has taken its place in history.

There is little doubt of our survival as a species, albeit with a lot greater appreciation of our own fragility and as recipients of a very clear wake-up call.

This virus, as is often the case, is not the direct cause of death but is highly dangerous to those individuals with underlying health issues.

This was not the case with the Spanish Flu or the Ebola virus. If nothing else, humanity will have developed a much better understanding of the processes and protocols needed to combat a pandemic involving a killer virus, or a full-scale biological attack by a rogue state or terrorist group.

Golf is not a mass participation or team sport and its fans, followers and players, certainly in SA, are generally not required to congregate in large numbers, or to squeeze into public transport and small areas, which is the norm for followers of a game such as football.

Even so, the game is under severe pressure with many courses closed and several of golf’s Majors postponed for the first time since World War 2, with tour events and tournaments being cancelled or rescheduled.

The game is also under equal pressure at club level and the effects of the shutdown may well prove to be terminal for those operations with underlying business health issues.

When Covid-19 was named a pandemic, one resort reported a 95% loss in hotel bookings with a comparable effect on numbers of golf rounds. This problem will be worsened for highly leveraged businesses for which any extended hiatus in revenue generating terms will be disastrous.

If the activity of this virus highlights that life is about the survival of the fittest, then this same principle will apply to many golf clubs, too many of which are already marginal in a business sense.

In all of this, it should be remembered that a brand never sleeps. Therefore, it is vital to go on the offensive in protecting this vital asset by communicating effectively and staying engaged with customers and the media at every opportunity.

This same approach applies to other areas of golf’s business activity, especially when the knee-jerk reaction is to stop EVERYTHING, just when it becomes even more essential to keep planning, marketing and doing as many of the normal business activities as possible.

It might prove to be that those facilities that have limited the down time will be the best prepared and the ones to benefit as the light at the end of this tunnel finally appears.

The same will apply to the world’s golfers and it will be intriguing to see whether the industrial-scale “practisers” or the more “natural” players will be first out of the blocks as the world’s tours reopen.

With the dearth of a daily fix of live sport, whatever your preferences, there has been a surge in interest in old and classic matches on TV and online.

In the interim and while — to paraphrase the narrator at the start of the movie Casablanca — we “wait and wait and wait” for live sport to resume, will any Majors be played in 2020?

If not, will there be eight golf Majors in 2021 and will they be renamed, like the 2020 Olympics, now scheduled for 2021, but still to be called Tokyo 2020?

One antidote to all of this uncertainty is perhaps best offered by Sir Winston Churchill, who ended many of his World War 2 phone calls with the exhortation to his caller to “KBO”. This is not an obscure royal honour, but an acronym for “keep buggering on”.

Overall, pretty sound advice, given the nature of the crisis and the darkness of the hour.