Match Play Championship owners the United States Golf Association are taking an important step toward protecting players by getting rid of the rule where players only have to be fully vaccinated.
Although fully vaccination has been the USGA practice, the organization will require that those who will play at The Australian Open must be fully vaccinated. Not only will this change the participation process, it also might stave off future low level players who become ill. The United States Golf Association will not be requiring entry to The Australian Open unless a golfer is vaccinated.
“Traditionally, we have always had a policy that says that you have to be fully vaccinated, unless you can prove otherwise to us,” said Gordon Mitchell, the executive director of The R&A. “We are not doing that at this year’s event in Australia. We’re allowing players to make the choice whether or not they would like to participate, but they can’t make the choice.”
The USGA and the R&A had a change of heart about their vaccination policy after Oakland Raiders linebacker Danny Aiken, one of the founders of Operation: HOPE, contracted the West Nile virus in late August. Aiken played the season and qualified for the finals of the U.S. Amateur. Aiken had seven operations and it took him six months to recover. Since that time, Aiken, who has been a minority owner of the Oakland A’s since 2005, has said that he doesn’t want to play at all unless he is fully vaccinated.
Neither the NFL nor the National Hockey League has full vaccination requirements for potential draft picks. For those who are selected, the NFL will require a statement that the potential draftee has received vaccinations for the West Nile virus, dengue fever, shigellosis and cholera. The NHL has neither a vaccination requirement nor a statement about the potential draftee’s medical history.
So, for example, if a Virginia Tech player were drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round and later decided not to play because of the illness, the Sabres, at minimum, would need to be certain the player has been vaccinated in order to take the player.
Although the United States Golf Association is not requiring the same full vaccination at the Australian Open, this is certainly a step in the right direction. The USGA is still having discussions with its partners on the PGA Tour and the other international professional golf organizations about how to address the issue.
“Our agreement has always been that they would be immunized,” Mitchell said. “Now we’re saying that they have to be immunized, if they choose to participate. That’s a change in direction.”
The United States Golf Association will not be making this request to U.S. Travel, which will be a similar company in charge of the entry process for Australians to enter the U.S. The entrance process is usually easy, and the United States Golf Association would not expect to require that players come in with documentation that they were fully vaccinated. This announcement, however, might have something to do with continuing to maintain its good relationships with Australia. The federal government, which has contracted The United States Golf Association to host the Olympics in 2020, has made security a priority in 2015.