Memorial Golf Tournament Tees Off Without Fans, Sinking Business In Dublin

Jul 16, 2020

The Memorial Golf Tournament shop door is wide open, with a chalk sign outside advertising 50% off merchandise. There are no customers inside, just two sales associates arranging golf polos and other novelty items.

“We’ve tried to make it as accessible as possible and as safe for all our patrons as possible, as we can just so everyone gets a bit of the memorial,” says shop sales associate Devyn Spino.

It’s been an up-and-down few months for the Memorial Golf Tournament. Normally, about 40,000 spectators would line the fairways of the Muirfield Village Golf Club each day of the event, which begins Thursday.

The PGA Tour originally delayed the tournament by a month, with far fewer fans allowed. The hope was that the event would still be one of the first professional sports events to return when the COVID-19 pandemic declined. But last week, with cases on the rise again in Ohio, organizers announced that golfers would play for TV cameras only.

No fans will be present inside the course this week, which also means few customers for businesses around the Dublin event. 

“Obviously, we’re looking for that foot traffic to be here, and getting that announcement obviously is discouraging, but we understand as to why it needs to happen,” says Shelly Post Sansbury, general manager at Frank and Carl’s Bar in the new Bridge Park district.

For Post Sansbury, the lack of spectators also means a delay in a collaboration with a business right across the street.

“It affected us just like it affected all the other restaurants that are out there,” Post Sansbury says. “We’re right across the street from Pins, and we hope to work with them here in the future, but just not having that foot traffic and as many people down here in Bridge Park definitely has negatively impacted us.”

Shelly Post Sansbury is the general manager of Frank and Carl's at Bridge Park.
Credit Adora Namigadde

One-Two Punch

The Memorial Tournament is normally one Dublin's busiest weeks of the year, bringing in $35 million on average. Even with many of the world's top golfers in town, Dublin Chamber of Commerce COO Jennifer Amirose says hotel stays are far lower than normal.

“Hotel stays are slowly creeping back up. So last week, I think we were around a 59% occupancy rate,” Amirose says.

With about 2,000 businesses in the Chamber of Commerce, Amirose says the hotels and restaurants will be most financially impacted. The chamber does not have exact figures on the total financial impact of losing spectators for the Memorial Tournament, but it will ripple throughout the entertainment and hospitality sector. 

“Anybody that’s looking to do things while they’re here visiting the tournament, so it might be like Sports Ohio, most people aren’t participating in these activities," Amirose said.

Devyn Spino is a sales associate at the Memorial Tournament shop. It normally wouldn't localize merchandise in one place, but a lack of spectators compelled the decision.
Credit Adora Namigadde

At the Memorial Tournament store, there’s a scramble to sell off merchandise. Not only is everything in the store half-off, Spino said the owners created a website with deals for customers, since it can no longer sell at pop-up locations on site.

“It’s definitely a large number of stuff we still have yet to sell, and I think that’s part of the reason we launched an online website,” Spino says.

Losing the Memorial Tournament the first of a one-two punch for Dublin. The city also had to cancel its huge Irish Festival, normally set for the first weekend in August.