Equipment rep details the frenzied back and forth (and sometimes back and forth again) needed to help tour pros at Colonial
With the PGA Tour re-starting this week at the Charles Schwab Challenge, it also served as a re-start for the tour’s road warriors—those who work out of the equipment vans that go from tournament to tournament servicing the equipment needs of their respective players until the opening tee shot on Thursday.
As with everything in the age of COVID-19, business was anything but usual for the reps and players as they worked to get their sticks ready prior to the opening round at Colonial C.C. Jacob Davidson is a PGA Tour rep for Callaway Golf and witnessed first-hand the challenges, the protocols, the camaraderie and, in the end, the relative efficiency of the equipment scene on the tour’s first week back.
“It was challenging and definitely different than normal for us,” Davidson said, “but everyone did their best to keep everyone safe and service the players as best as we could.”
The major differences were pretty simple. Unlike most weeks where reps are free to roam the range and interact with players and caddies, handle clubs and readily make adjustments, safety concerns took precedence at Colonial.
On normal weeks, gloves, balls, towels and shirts would be placed by the reps in player’s lockers in the clubhouse, but this week there was no access to the clubhouse. Instead, there was a player concierge for the locker room at the pool house at Colonial.
“We would drop stuff off there with a volunteer and I honestly have no idea where it went from there,” Davidson said. “We weren’t allowed inside. It was just a table set up outside the fitness center where we dropped off the soft goods and they distributed them to the players after sanitizing them.”
On the range also was different. Each player had a guest badge they could use for a teacher or an equipment rep to be with them on the range. “We were able to get out there and stand with them, properly social distanced, to watch them hit some balls which was very helpful,” Davidson said. “The new challenge is that we can’t grab the club from the player and make the adjustments or move weight around or change a hosel setting with the wrenches right on the range. We have to advise the players on how to do that, or put the club through the cleaning protocol. That can slow down the process.”
Davidson cited a 3-wood build for Matt Wallace as an example of the new normal. After building the club, Wallace hit it on the range and sent Davidson some Trackman numbers. “We looked at the numbers and discussed them with him via phone and text [explaining] that we needed to take a little bit of loft off the club to bring down the spin,” Davidson said. “So, the club was brought back to the sanitizing station, went through that, then came back on the truck. We bent it to take the loft off, sent it back through the station, and he got it back. Then we watched him hit it and it was good. That was an example where it worked out well, but sometimes, especially if you’re bending clubs, it can take a few tries to get it right.”
Not surprisingly with the extra hoops to jump through, it turned out to be a busy week. Davidson and fellow Callaway rep Kellen Watson got in Sunday and put in about six hours as well as working a few extra hours into the night on Monday and Tuesday to play a bit of catch up. (Access to the equipment vans shuts off when the tournament begins.)
“Not seeing these guys in a while there was a lot to do,” Davidson said. “Normally we do re-grips for about 10 percent of our staff players. This week about 50 percent of our staff asked for re-grips. Luckily we had prepared for having all those grips on the truck because normally we wouldn’t have that many. We did something for pretty much all of our 28 staff players in the field, whether it was a club build, loft/lie check or re-grip.
“In many ways it felt pretty close to normal. The players and caddies were excited to see everyone for the first time in a couple of months and were very friendly. Everyone made sure safety was a priority and the reps really made sure we didn’t do anything outside the procedures the PGA Tour implemented. We were cautious, but I didn’t see much of a difference in the vibe out there. Hats off to PGA Tour for everything they’ve done. It worked out nicely.”
Even with a few extra steps involved.