Officials getting ready for Senior Players Championship

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Fred Couples hits out of the number six bunker during the final round of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, Akron, Ohio, at Firestone Country Club.

AKRON – It's fair to say that there has been quite a bit of change in recent years for Firestone Country Club and its connection to professional golf.

In 2018, the Bridgestone Invitational ended two decades of immense popularity when the PGA Tour moved the event to Memphis and in its place, the Senior Players Championship began at the club. However, the 2019 event that kicked off a new era was followed by the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the 2020 event as tournaments and sporting events across America were canceled.

Now, as sports and society slowly inch back toward something resembling normal, the Senior Players Championship is back at Firestone Country Club and with it, spectators able to enjoy professional golf in person.

“We are committed to providing a safe and fun tournament experience for all tournament attendees, and we’re looking forward to welcoming fans back for this year’s Bridgestone Senior Players Championship,” said executive director Don Padgett III.

Keith Newton announces Brett Quigley on the first tee during the third round of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, Akron, Ohio, at Firestone Country Club.

The club recently announced that tickets for the event, which will be held  June 23-27 as the third major of the year on PGA Champions Tour, are on sale. Tournament officials cited work over recent weeks with the Ohio Department of Health and Summit County Public Health to receive approval for fans to attend and noted that they will "continue to coordinate with local and state government representatives to hold a safe event."

Golf has its advantages in terms of allowing fans to attend because it's an outdoor sport spread out over a large area, so in theory the tournament could skew closer to "normal" than, for example, baseball or basketball.

There will also be various events and festivities around the golf portion of the tournament.

“In addition to the golf tournament, we are excited to have the Akron Symphony Orchestra thanks to Fleet Response and The Shootouts performing after golf for the first time at Firestone," Padgett said. "We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy this outdoor, week-long, summer event.”

The Summerfest at Firestone will take place during tournament week and will feature food trucks including Slyman’s Tavern, Concerts After Play with country music band The Shootouts and the Akron Symphony Orchestra showcasing 30 musicians performing American Bandstand after Sunday's trophy ceremony.

Tickets are on sale for competition rounds and fans can review the tour’s health and safety plan for ticketed spectators by visiting PGATOUR.com/knowbeforeyougo. The tournament is also offering peace-of-mind purchasing, with all 2021 daily grounds ticket purchases available for refund in the event the tournament is further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By having fans, the tournament will be able to continue its long-standing tradition of making charitable donations in the local community and add to the more than $30 million that has been raised for worthy area non-profit organizations from professional golf tournaments at Firestone since 1984.

While the effects of the pandemic remain a fluid situation and no one can be certain what its impact will be on the tournament, the prospect of being able to attend a major golf tournament on a course they've come to know and love over the years figures to be more than just par for the course for local golf fans come June.