Coronavirus: Golfer Oliver Farr focuses on family with wife Joanna on NHS frontline

By Gareth VincentBBC Sport Wales
Oliver Farr
Oliver Farr's best finish so far this season was tied-28th at the SA Open in January

The only golf Welsh number one Oliver Farr is playing right now is on a putting mat in his garage or with a bucket in the garden.

In truth, the 32-year-old has little time to pick up his clubs, because he is looking after young sons while his wife goes to work at the Hereford County Hospital.

Joanna Farr only returned to her NHS job earlier this month after a spell on maternity leave.

This week, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, she will switch from her regular role as an endoscopy nurse to the accident and emergency department.

"I am a bit worried for her but that's what she is trained to do and she wants to do it," Farr tells BBC Sport Wales.

"She has experience of A&E and has been asked to go back.

"She is a bit scared of what she is going to face, but I am extremely proud of her being so brave and getting on with it. I am seeing first-hand someone stepping up."

While his wife plays her part in the fight against coronavirus, Farr is in charge of his sons - George, three, and Jack, who is 11 months.

"Their nursery has closed so I am full-time daycare," he says.

"It's not what I was expecting. My mum keeps texting and saying: 'This is something you will remember - some good, quality time with the boys.' It will be tough when I do go back to golf."

Farr has not played competitively since he finished tied-47th at the Qatar Masters in Doha three weeks ago.

Since then, the European Tour has been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With courses and practice facilities closed, Farr is having to do what he can at his Herefordshire home.

"I have got a putting mat in the garage and I am trying to do 20 minutes a day," he explains.

"I can chip around the back garden. I am chipping off a door mat into a bucket. I don't want to ruin the grass!

"It's messing about really, but I am trying to keep the muscle memory going."

Oliver Farr
Oliver Farr is ranked 162nd on the Race to Dubai having played six European Tour events this season

Farr is also trying to do what exercise he can in an attempt to be as ready as possible for the resumption of the European Tour, whenever that comes.

As things stand, there will be no European Tour action before June after the Irish Open, which had been set for the end of May, became the latest event to be postponed.

At 311th in the world, Farr is Wales' highest-ranked golfer, ahead of Rhys Enoch (334th) and Jamie Donaldson (485th).

He is on the European Tour for the third time in his career having regained his card by finishing 12th on the Challenge Tour in 2019.

Farr has made a solid start to the season as he bids to secure his seat at European golf's top table for the long term, but the coronavirus crisis means uncertainty for every player, and financial worries for some.

"I don't know what this season is about," he concedes. "Will we finish the year? Will we be restarting?

"As soon as the major European Tour events start to dwindle and the further into the year we get, I think the whole idea of writing off the season might come in.

"In football, they can postpone games and play them later in the year if they have to - but I don't know how you can do that in golf, because the weather isn't good enough in the winter.

"It's also harder than some sports because we travel all around the world and there are so many nationalities on the tour. It's got to be a fair playing field for everyone."

For players at Farr's level, getting out on the course - and performing well enough to secure prize money - matters.

"You have still got to pay the bills," he says. "I am one of millions of people in that boat."

A wider concern than when the next pay cheque might arrive is what coronavirus means for the long-term future of golf.

"I do worry for the tour," Farr adds.

"Are sponsors going to have enough money to sponsor events? You are just hoping they can keep things going for next year, but they have bigger things to think about than sponsoring sport right now.

"That's across a lot of sports, not just golf."

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