Ryan Palmer’s internal clock tells him that this week he should be dining on crawfish, shucked oysters and other Cajun delicacies. This week should be the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, aka the best eats on the PGA Tour.
It’s a tradition unlike any other that on Tuesday of tournament week at TPC Louisiana’s driving range a wooden canoe is filled with boiled crawfish, shrimp, and potatoes. That’s just a warmup for Wednesday’s pro-am, which includes food stations at nearly every tee serving up some of the best dishes in town.
Dining is a sport for pros, who juggle reservations at French Quarter Institutions such as Acme Oyster House, Drago’s, Mr. B’s and Commander’s Palace. It’s just not right to come here without tasting the jambalaya, etouffees, and muffulettas.
Funny, though, in a city where the pros feast on fine dining almost as much as on birdies and you practically can’t go wrong picking a place to eat, Palmer and his partner in the two-man team event, Jon Rahm, stopped at, of all places, Popeyes for their victory celebration and walked in wearing their winner’s belts.
“We were both flying home that night and ordered fried chicken for the plane ride home,” Palmer explained on a conference call Tuesday.
For Palmer, it marked his fourth Tour title and first victory in more than nine years. His defense will have to wait another year as the Tour’s annual visit to The Big Easy was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Palmer, to his credit, has launched a fundraising platform called Pros for a Purpose to benefit charities behind each of the nine canceled or postponed PGA Tour events. Along with wife, Jennifer, he donated $20,000 to the events he was committed to (Valspar Championship, Valero Texas Open, RBC Heritage, Zurich Classic of New Orleans and AT&T Byron Nelson). Moreover, Meiomi Wine ponied up $100,000 and promised to contribute $5 to the charity for every person participating in the Meiomi Pinot Putt Off that is seen making a putt with a glass of pinot in their hand, up to an additional $50,000 for charity.
Palmer is counting the days to June 11, when the PGA Tour is expected to resume the 2019-20 season at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. Palmer is a member at host club Colonial Country Club and has played the event every year since 2004, notching three top-5 finishes and a T-6 last year. He said he didn’t get too excited because he knows he still has to wait all of the month of May, adding, “I think I’ll be ready in a week,” and that he plans to play the first three events out of the gate.
The Charles Schwab Challenge was originally scheduled for May 21-24, but was pushed back two weeks into June. Palmer is a member of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, and he said he expects guidelines for testing to be released following a call with the Tour’s PAC scheduled in 10 days.
“This all depends on testing, assuming it’s available to everyone,” Palmer said. “I’m very positive and optimistic we will be playing in June. We’ll know more in the next few weeks as the Tour begins their testing protocols.”
And Palmer is confident if proper measures for testing and social distancing are put in place and the first events go off without a hitch – there will be no fans for at least the first four events – then he doesn’t see why the season won’t be able to resume and why the three remaining scheduled majors, beginning with the PGA Championship, wouldn’t be played too.
“If we start in June at Colonial, I’d expect to see everyone at the PGA in August, for sure,” he said.
For Palmer, playing without a gallery will be an adjustment, but one he’s experienced on a few occasions before, most recently at the 2019 Zozo Championship in October.
“It’s going to feel like college again,” he said. “The funny part is them announcing you on the first tee with no one around and the habit of raising your hand and tipping your cap. Who are you raising your hand to?”
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