Celeste Dao

Returning from summers spent at home overseas, sophomore Georgia golfers and roommates Celeste Dao, Caterina Don and Candice Mahe’s apprehension about the pandemic has been tempered by cautious optimism heading into their fall season.

“Every day when we read the newspaper, we saw so many things about the United States,” Quebec native Mahe said.

The women’s golf team is set to begin its 2020-21 season with the Blessings Collegiate Invitational held on Oct. 5-7 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Head coach Josh Brewer said players will be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test before travel.

In their home countries, international players were required to shelter in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Mahe, a sophomore from Gourin, France, was quarantined for two months, unable to go anywhere but the grocery store and on outdoor walks. The local golf course was closed, so she was unable to practice during this time.

“I came back on the course three months later, so at the beginning it was really tough,” Mahe said.

Sophomore Celeste Dao, a sophomore from Quebec, expected to have a busy tournament schedule this summer, but many were canceled. She played in two tournaments, the Championnat de Bromont in Quebec, where she tied for ninth overall, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Maryland, where she missed the cut.

In the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Dao was required to produce a negative COVID-19 test both in Quebec before traveling, and when she arrived at the tournament in Maryland. Dao described the tournament as a “bubble format,” which prohibited free entry and exit.

Dao returned home in mid-March and was not allowed to leave the house for two weeks. She left the house minimally for the next three months. To continue practicing, her father bought a net for her to hit balls in the yard.

Despite concerns about coming back to the U.S., Dao, Don and Mahe are excited to be reunited with their teammates.

Mahe said she spoke to Brewer consistently while living in France, and that those conversations and his patience eased her worries. She is excited to play golf and be back with her team. She lives with three other sophomore teammates, including Dao and Don, and feels like they’re helping each other stay safe.

“It’s a good thing I have good roommates that are really taking it seriously,” Dao said.

Caterina Don, a sophomore from Italy, said she has worries about entering a country with so many active COVID-19 cases, but that precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing come naturally now.

After 40 days of not leaving the house, Don was able to practice alone and immediately return home. Her mother’s store opened on June 3 after closing for months and Don said that Italy is almost back to normal life now.

Don had a successful summer, earning medalist honors at the 2020 Italian Match Play Championships, finishing second at the 2020 Italian Stroke Play Championships and winning the Italian Women’s Open.

Brewer said there is still much unknown about their tournament schedule this fall, but they continue to follow university and SEC guidelines. He said the team is taking steps in everyday life to protect each other.

“If you let your guard down once it could cost you and your team a chance to compete,” Brewer said.

The team requires temperature checks and reports symptoms to Georgia’s DawgCheck program to catch any potential cases quickly.

Brewer is confident that his players are following the correct guidelines to avoid potential cases on the team. He said wearing a mask when in public and social distancing from others are small sacrifices when the team has a chance to play this fall.

“As long as we’re playing, we’ll do whatever we need,” said Brewer. “We just want to play golf.”