Off Course

The unforgettable day when life went viral

Author: Jessica Meyers

Following an early Saturday wakeup call, I set out with the women’s golf team for Chicago Midway airport to fly to Arizona for my first Clover Cup.

A few minutes into the drive, assistant coach Kyle Demeter said, “Hey guys, I have seen a few reports in the news about a highly contagious virus. Nobody seems to have much information about the origin or seriousness of the situation, so let’s be careful of what we touch in the airport.”

We made it to Arizona and played practice rounds at Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale and at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa. On Wednesday, my team’s off day, my mom arrived and checked into her hotel located on Superstition Way. A very superstitious person, she thought the location was a sign of what was to come, given the current state of the world.

After passing a few hours at an aquarium in a nearly abandoned mall, my mom and I headed back to the hotel for an impromptu team meeting. Head coach Susan Holt began with virus updates, informing us that the University would keep students at home for two weeks after spring break due to all the travel. The athletic director had approved athletes to remain on campus to train for competition. Our tournament, planned to begin on Friday morning, was still on — for now.

My mom asked a question that made my heart sink: “Is there a chance that this tournament does not happen?” After a long silence my coach said, “Yes. But for now, the other teams have already arrived at Longbow Golf Club, so the decision will be up to each of the conferences.”

When we finished the ninth hole during Thursday’s practice round, my teammates and I noticed the Kentucky players walking to their vans. The Southeastern Conference had suspended all sports; those teams were headed home. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and other participating leagues had not yet made a decision. There was going to be a meeting in an hour to decide.

Meyers Covid Essay
The author before the shocking change in the course of events

My teammates and I continued our practice round but began to mess around and take the day less seriously. Our tournament round the next day seemed to slip further and further out of reach.

When my team stepped up to the 18th tee, the Big Ten and Pac-12 had pulled their players. After three of my six teammates had teed off, we heard two golf carts racing up to us. The Kansas State University coach said, “Coach Holt said for you guys to pick up your balls and go to the clubhouse patio as soon as possible. Do not finish this hole. The ACC has suspended your season and the tournament is not going to take place.” In shock, my teammates and I rushed back to the patio, where our coaches were waiting.

“We don’t have much information other than the fact that your season is suspended for at least the next two weeks. You will not be returning to campus, as all the athletes have been directed to go home. You all must go home as soon as possible, today at best. You don’t want to be stuck in Phoenix. Do not go back to campus, we will send you everything you need. Plan to connect in a few days with more information, but please go back to the hotel and pack your things and quickly get to the airport.”

Since we did not have a team flight back to South Bend that day, our last-minute flights were paid for by Notre Dame, to ensure a quick and safe arrival home.

Thirty minutes had passed and I had managed to say goodbye to my coaches, teammates and my best friend, Madelyn. I packed my clubs, my suitcase, my backpack and booked a flight back to Pittsburgh with my mom.

March 13, 2020. I’ll never forget the day everything veered off course.

Jessica Meyers is a rising senior from Wexford, Pennsylvania, living in Breen-Phillips Hall. A management consulting major and a journalism minor, she has interests in golf, yoga, writing, traveling and spending time with her family.