PGA Tour golfers criticize Hilton Head for loose COVID-19 restrictions after player tests positive

The third round of the RBC Heritage is in the books, and so is the PGA Tour’s first positive COVID-19 case.

PGA Tour golfers criticize Hilton Head for loose COVID-19 restrictions after player tests positive
Signs around Harbour Town Golf Links remind those on the course to social distance during the RBC Heritage. (Source: WTOC-TV)

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WTOC) - The third round of the RBC Heritage is in the books, and so is the PGA Tour’s first positive COVID-19 case.

Golfer Nick Watney tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday of RBC Heritage week. He withdrew from the tournament immediately.

Saturday morning the PGA Tour released the following statement:

“With Friday’s confirmed COVID-19 case of a competitor in the RBC Heritage field, the PGA TOUR implemented its response plan in consultation with medical experts, including working with those who may have had close contact with Nick Watney. As a result, 11 tests were conducted on Friday with all 11 tests being negative.”

Volunteers said they think the PGA Tour is handling safety as best they can.

“I knew I didn’t get anywhere close to him, however, we did have three walking scorers that did score for him on the three days that he was walking here, and so, they’re notified,” said longtime volunteer Cheryl Pearce. “They knew they were when they heard about it, and so, I felt badly about that, but they don’t have any symptoms, and he’s- the good news today we heard is that his roommate and his caddy were all negative.”

Locally, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported that cases in Beaufort County are on the rise: 60 new cases in the county announced Saturday, and five more deaths statewide.

The golfers have taken notice.

Justin Thomas called out Hilton Head residents during his Saturday press conference in response to Watney’s positive test saying, “they’re seeming to not take it very seriously. It’s an absolute zoo around here.”

Thomas added he feels safe out on the course and with the PGA Tour’s measures.

Other pros weighed in too.

“Last week everyone was super careful, and then we got here, and the vibe on the Island is a little more relaxed,” said Vaughn Taylor in his PGA Tour interview. “I feel like we might have gotten a little more relaxed too, complacent with being careful. Everyone has kind of ratcheted it up a little bit. Not hanging out with too many people, hanging with too many guys, stay out of restaurants and bars and those things.”

Carlos Ortiz said he was surprised how open things are in South Carolina when he went out to eat one night.

“It was here by the lighthouse right here in the marina. It was way, it’s a 30-minute wait, and once you get in there, there’s no social distancing, packed tables right by each other, kids running around,” Ortiz explained in his press conference with the PGA Tour. “We were impressed how nobody wearing a mask. It was just -- we talked about it on Tuesday when we saw it. We were like, oh, somebody’s going to get corona here. It’s crazy how busy it is in here inside the Island.”

In his press conference, Joel Dahmen said he even felt uneasy going to get take-out, because of how busy places on Hilton Head are, saying it “is wild out there.”

The PGA Tour did confirm Nick Watney is self-quarantining at this time and has been since he got that positive test result. His fellow PGA Tour members all wished him a quick recovery.

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