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  • Alistair Tait

It only takes one!

What on earth were John Catlin and his caddie Nathan Mulrooney thinking about when they decided to breach the Covid-19 protocols before this week’s English Championship at Hanbury Manor?

Certainly not about their fellow pros and caddies, or the general welfare of the European Tour, that’s for sure.

Catlin and Mulroney decided to visit a local restaurant on Tuesday August 4th in a clear breach of the tour’s rules. Those rules couldn’t be clearer: players, caddies and officials must restrict themselves to the golf course and the hotel for the duration of the tournament. Quite which part of that the pair misunderstood is unclear.

Talk about irresponsible?

In statement, the tour said:

"The duo visited a local restaurant on the evening of Tuesday August 4 outside the tournament bubble, hence compromising the tour’s health guidelines, and were withdrawn from the tournament with immediate effect as a result.”

It’s this sort for selfish, complacent thinking not only golf needs to avoid, but wider society too. Otherwise we’ll never get through this coronavirus nightmare.

To be fair, the 31-year-old American said sorry:

“I apologise to my fellow players and everyone involved with the tournament this week for this error of judgement. I understand the European Tour’s decision and accept the sanction.”

South African Wilco Nienaber, leading qualifier at the 2018 Amateur Championship, has taken Catlin’s place.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley must have been fuming at Catlin and Mulrooney’s stupidity. Pelley and his team have worked incredibly hard to get the circuit back up and running. The last thing he needs is players and caddies going stupid on him.

The PGA Tour’s restart was tarnished when several players and caddies tested positive for coronavirus. There were reports of complacency from a minority not following protocols during the RCB Heritage at Hilton Head Island. World number one Justin Thomas was shocked when he arrived in South Carolina:

“No offence to Hilton Head, but they’re seeming to not take it very seriously,” Thomas said. “It’s an absolute zoo around here. There’s people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been driving by, is absolutely crowded.”

Seems there was a minority of those playing and caddying in the tournament who also didn't take things so seriously. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan read the riot act, telling players, caddies, and officials to follow strict protocols or face hefty fines. I actually wrote at the time that the PGA Tour should have shut down. That drew a strong retort from a European player based in the United States. Said player, who I will not name since he got in touch with me on a private basis, said:

“I truly wish someone could actually write something positive about the efforts that have gone in to making and giving us the opportunity to play again.
"The tireless hours the staff have put in, the people that are sanitising everything that’s touched every time someone walks past it. Every buggy driven 200 yards to the range is sanitised, then, when we drive it back, sanitised again. Every 20 feet there are hand sanitisers in the clubhouse. Every member of staff on site wearing face masks.
“I strongly feel that it’s difficult for you to be able to give a proper valid opinion when you’re not here to see what is going on.
“This isn’t going away anytime soon. We do have to live with it, and we do have to be very careful. If you don’t listen and break those rules the penalty will and should be big. “

Valid points.

It’s easy to snipe from the side lines, and I admitted that in my response. The PGA and European Tours are doing a fantastic job in trying to mitigate against this virus. The R&A, with the help of IMG, will do likewise for this month's AIG Women’s British Open, and the women’s and men’s Amateur Championships.

Catlin and Mulrooney's actions are so disappointing because it only takes one to mess it up for everyone else. The same goes for ordinary golf clubs. That’s why individual responsibility is key right now.

Catlin and his caddie should hang their heads in shame.

#JustSaying: "I don't know why that putt hung on the edge. I'm a clean liver. It must be my caddie." Joanne Carner

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