Colonial spectators in bushes and temporary tents off course

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Xander Schauffele tees off on the second hole during the third round of the Charles Schwab Challenge golf tournament at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, June 13, 2020. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Max Butcher and his buddies felt as if they had front-row seats at Colonial, even in the bushes with no spectators allowed on the course.

The group of five recent graduates from nearby TCU stood in a small gap between a row of shrubbery and a chain-link fence Saturday. They had a view of the fourth and fifth holes during the third round of the PGA Tour’s first tournament in three months.

“This is as good as it gets right now, and I can’t complain,” said Butcher, who has been in that spot multiple days this week.

They had to push through gaps in the bushes to get to there but Jack Kurz, who stood next to Butcher, said the close-up view made it “almost better than getting a ticket.”

There were no tickets for anyone, not even for Colonial members. The PGA Tour isn’t allowing spectators the first month back after the long hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of those members did have obstructed views from one of three temporary viewing areas set up in the yards of homes on the edge of the course. One was along the main road that leads to the clubhouse, and two others were near the 15th and 16th holes.

One member watching Saturday from a raised tent across Colonial Parkway with partial views of parts of the second, third and fourth holes, called it “bittersweet.”

The member, who didn’t want to give his name, wasn’t happy to be on the outside looking in, but was glad the tournament was being played three weeks after it was originally scheduled. He said others with him felt the same way. Held since 1946, Colonial is the longest-running PGA Tour event at the same venue.

Cheers from a temporary grandstand erected in a backyard near the 16th tee box could be heard at the far end of the golf course. Nearby in another yard was another raised tent dubbed “Mockingbird Deck” — after the street name.

When Corey Conners hit an approach to about 5 feet at No. 15 in the second round, he got quite a reaction from those outside spectators who could see it.

“Yeah, it was pretty cool,” Conners said. “I know we’re used to getting applause and whatnot, and cheers when we hit good shots. So yeah, that felt nice. It was definitely different because that’s not happening really anywhere else on the golf course. So it put a smile on my face for sure.”

Jordan Spieth noticed people peeking through the fence by the No. 1 green and behind the second tee, where some rode up on their bikes. The Dallas native who attended the Colonial at times growing up was asked if he would ever try to sneak on a course.

“I wouldn’t try and sneak on. I don’t think that’s going to go well for you,” Spieth said. “But certainly try and get a view.”

One man did get through the fence in a corner near those bushes beyond the fourth green Friday and watched some golf before he was forced to leave.

Everyone stayed outside the fence there Saturday, with Butcher and his buddies among about a dozen spectators watching the holes that are part of Colonial’s “Horrible Horseshoe” — including that long par-3 fourth hole and the difficult No. 5 hole that runs parallel to the Trinity River. The TCU grads were directly behind the fifth tee box, only a few feet from the players.

“They definitely give us a reaction, they definitely are willing to talk to us and they like having us here even though you can’t have fans on the course right now,” said Butcher, who had a ball tossed to him Friday from Sebatian Munoz, the No. 9 player in the world.

Chris Zelda, standing in the shade not far from that group, has lived in Fort Worth for 33 years and has been going to the Colonial that whole time. He missed only one day in his unusual viewing spot this week, and planned to be there again Sunday to watch all the groups go by before going home to watch the rest on television.

“Under the circumstances, I’m not disappointed at all. I think the way that this whole thing has been handled has been great,” he said. “I’m just glad these guys came, and I think they were ready to come and I think there’s people who were ready to come out and see it.”

Including the guy who brought his six-foot ladder to get a view during the first round.

“I saw him get his ladder out, I thought he was going to go do some work on the condos down there or something,” Zelda said.

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