VIRGINIA WATER, England – Gray skies settled in on Wentworth early Saturday. A fitting stage.
The BMW PGA Championship resumed just past sunrise following one of the most surreal and sad delays in the history of the ancient game. Play was halted by a single horn blast late Thursday just moments after the royal family announced the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
When Richard Bland left Wentworth Thursday evening, he’d emptied his locker and packed his belongings. He figured the tournament would be canceled or postponed. “It’s unprecedented. It’s simply too big of a moment,” the Englishman reasoned.
It somehow seemed fitting that Bland, who at 49 was among the elder statesmen at the DP World Tour’s flagship event, would be awaiting his second-round tee time Saturday morning when another horn echoed across leafy Wentworth announcing a two-minute moment of silence to honor Her Majesty. Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, was all Bland had ever known.
It's best to leave the eulogizing to those more qualified. As Charles Moore wrote in The Telegraph on Friday, “There can be no such debate about Elizabeth II. She was a good person, through and through.”
The moment of silence came at 9:50 a.m. (BST), 10 minutes before the proclamation, which was being televised on the oversized screens in the Championship Village, of King Charles III. Hundreds of would-be fans paused to watch a truly historic moment.
Generationally it made sense that Bland needed a bit more time to collect himself than his playing partners John Catlin and Daniel von Tonder. But he was hardly the only player who felt the full force of the week’s emotion.
As an expat living in the United States, Luke Donald is regularly asked if he’d ever met the queen. Unlike most who are asked the tired question, the Englishman had met Queen Elizabeth II.
“The kind of unwavering duty that she showed this country was second to none,” said Donald, who was awarded an MBE (member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2012. “Obviously sad to see her passing, but what an amazing life. She would have wanted us to carry on and celebrate her life.”
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, which spanned seven decades, connected generations. At 33, Rory McIlroy counts his time with Queen Elizabeth II as one of the highlights of his life.
“She’s been such a steadying figure for so long. I saw a stat yesterday that she ascended to the throne one year before Ben Hogan won his first Open Championship,” the Northern Irishman said. “It just shows you how long she’s been around. That level of duty, to do that with the dignity and the dedication and the grace that she has, she’s an absolutely incredible woman.”
There were some who questioned the DP World Tour’s move to carry on with the tournament, pointing to decisions by the Premier and English football leagues to halt play into next week to honor the queen. But the crowds that flocked to Wentworth Saturday suggested it was exactly what was needed.
“We’re playing golf and we’re going to honor the queen,” DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley told Sky Sports. “I’ve heard from so many players today who want to honor Her Majesty and felt that playing was the right way to do it.”
By the time McIlroy and the late starters completed their rounds the clouds had inched away, leaving only sunshine and an understandably subdued mood. The sense of loss was real.
The next week will be filled with remembrances of the 96-year-old monarch. She touched so many lives in seven decades and golf was no different even though she never took to the game. When McIlroy was awarded his MBE, he spoke with the queen about horse racing and the heat in Dubai. When Lee Westwood was awarded his OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2012 at Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty asked him about golf. “Should have talked about horse racing,” Westwood smiled.
“Get on with it” is a uniquely British attitude and, at least according to those who had met her, something Queen Elizabeth II would have appreciated as golf led the way on Saturday in honoring her legacy.