Athletes are creatures of habit. They typically thrive on routine and spend a great deal of time trying to perfect it.
Right now, Jaclyn Lee doesn’t have much of a routine. Most of her days are spent listening to the gentle crash of waves along the shoreline of Okanagan Lake in British Columbia. Lee, 23, is in the midst of a two-week quarantine after returning home from the LPGA Drive On Championship in Georgia. There’s no WiFi at the condo. No cable. Her dad gave her a few old movies to watch if she got bored, but she’s mostly using this time as a deep cleanse.
“I’m kind of just enjoying the peace of it all,” she said.
Lee missed an LPGA event due to COVID-19, but never actually tested positive. Instead it was her caddie’s positive test that forced her to withdraw from the ShopRite LPGA Classic last month. The Ohio State grad played four times on the LPGA in 2020 and didn’t cash a paycheck.
There isn’t a segment of Lee’s life that hasn’t been disrupted by this global pandemic. This, of course, is the norm. Every player on tour has a COVID-19 story, how the great disruptor impacted them physically, financially and emotionally.
Players who make their living pursuing a solitary game have never felt more disconnected. Laura Davies came over to the U.S. to compete for two weeks but found the lifestyle of going strictly from hotel to course tough to take.
When Lee first went home to Canada in March, she holed up in her bedroom for two weeks while her parents left food outside the door. After the LPGA’s 166-day break, she returned to the U.S. but couldn’t go back to Canada in between events due to the mandatory two-week quarantine for border crossing.
Lee instead went back to her apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she had a great group of friends, but it still wasn’t home.
“Not being able to travel back home with any ease,” she said, “and then not being able to really socialize, it definitely took a toll on my mental health.”
Lee also learned the importance of checking in on people – even those who always seem in good spirits. She later discovered that they too had been struggling mentally.
“Never underestimate what a year like this can do to someone,” she said.
While Lee didn’t compete outside the U.S. on the LPGA this year, she still managed to have one of the most unusual travel experiences to date.
After her caddie tested positive at the ShopRite, Lee decided that she wanted to do her two-week quarantine back at her apartment in Arizona. She changed the drop-off location on her economy Hyundai rental from Philadelphia to Phoenix and plotted out her cross-country trip.
LPGA staff provided her with a pillow and blanket, since she had to sleep in her car. Lee found friends along the route who lived in safe neighborhoods and called ahead to see if she could park in their driveways. She stocked up on beef jerky and protein bars and picked up to-go salads and wraps.
The first day, Lee drove 13 hours from Atlantic City to just north of Indianapolis. From there she drove 11 ½ hours to Hutchinson, Kansas. Then it was 16 hours to Scottsdale.
“I only stopped to get gas,” she said. “There was never a point where I was yawning or tired of driving.”
Once the adrenaline ran out though, Lee crashed hard in her apartment.
The 2020 LPGA season is over for Lee. Limited daylight hours means smaller fields for the rest of the year, with the exception of the U.S. Women’s Open, which is an exemption-only field.
Coming back from a wrist injury this season, Lee did take comfort in the fact that she couldn’t lose her card after the LPGA enacted a status freeze. She’s now pain-free, with plenty of time to formulate a game plan to tackle what’s next.
Whenever and whatever that might be.