American John Catlin kicked out of European Tour event over Covid-19 breach

James Corrigan
·2-min read
John Catlin tees off on the 10th hole during day two of the Hero Open at Marriott Forest of Arden - GETTY IMAGES
John Catlin tees off on the 10th hole during day two of the Hero Open at Marriott Forest of Arden - GETTY IMAGES

The European Tour promised to get tough if any of its strict Covid-19 protocols were breached, and it has been true to its word by kicking out the American pro John Catlin and his caddie from this week's English Championship at Hanbury Manor.

Catlin and Nathan Mulrooney visited a local restaurant in Hertfordshire on Tuesday evening outside the tournament bubble and when it was discovered, the punishment was immediate. 

They were immediately withdrawn from the event, which is the third since the circuit restarted last month with its six-strong “UK Swing”. 

"I apologise to my fellow players and everyone involved with the tournament this week for this error of judgement," Catlin, the world No 242, said via a statement. "I understand the European Tour's decision and accept the sanction."

The pair could hardly plead ignorance. In contrast to the PGA Tour, on which players and caddies are free to stay where they please and go out where they please whilst playing in a tournament, the European Tour insists on everyone involved in the “bubble” - players, caddies, support staff and media - staying at a designated hotel and not leaving unless it is straight to the course. 

The rigidity of the regime is one of the reasons why the UK Government allowed the Tour special dispensation for players arriving from overseas to be exempt from the quarantine restrictions. 

It is not for everyone, as Andrew “Beef” Johnston highlighted when withdrawing after nine holes of the British Masters - the Tour’s first event back after a four-month hiatus - two weeks ago. 

"Being here and being confined to the hotel, confined to the course... is ultimately not what I want at this moment and not how I want to live my life," Johnston said in Newcastle.

Catlin, the 29 year-old who played in last week’s Hero Open at the Forest of Arden, and Mulrooney chose, for whatever reasons, to ignore the rules. The officials should be applauded for their decisive action, explaining there was no way back after the duo had "compromised the Tour’s health guidelines". Catlin's place in Thursday’s first round has been taken by South African Wilco Nienaber.