American golfer slams Bermuda over Covid-19 protocol for PGA Tour event
A journeyman golfer on the PGA Tour in the United States has taken to social media to trash Bermuda over its Covid-19 protocol.
Charlie Beljan, a 36-year-old American, was due to be in the 132-player field for the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course from October 28 to 31, but balked at the mandated requirement to be vaccinated or submit to prescribed quarantine.
Tougher restrictions have been introduced by the Government after a recent spike in Covid cases that has claimed 38 lives this month alone.
“Today, I was forced to withdraw from @PGATour event in Bermuda because I didn’t take a jab,” Mr Beljan said on Twitter on Tuesday night.
“This is not the tour’s policy but it is Bermuda’s. The tour has done an amazing job through this hoax,” Beljan continued. “F**k Bermuda and all you Nazis pushing this agenda.“
Mr Beljan’s tweet received more than 100 responses, including one from Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Minister for Health, who defended Bermuda’s stance in the midst of the pandemic.
“Pro, disappointing you feel this way and took to Twitter to slang our Covid policy,” wrote Mr Dunkley, a keen golfer himself. “Our border policies have helped keep us safe through Covid.
“While you do not agree, the facts show the vaccine has helped protect people! Even @POTUS will introduce a #vax policy for travellers.”
Mr Dunkley also spoke to The Royal Gazette about the tweet, which he said was bad publicity for Bermuda as the country tries to get to grips with the pandemic.
“Obviously when I read the tweet I was shocked and very disappointed at it,” said Dunkley, a former president of Mid Ocean Club.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be associated with those on the PGA Tour for a number of years, from the time I was president of Mid Ocean and when I was Premier and I had some good friends who worked for the tour, so I have a close affinity for the tour.
“I know the good work they do in the community, not only in the United States but around the world. And I know the policies that they have, so I was shocked that a player would do that. I’m sure the PGA Tour will frown on him and deal with that in the appropriate way.”
“Also, as an athlete, I think it’s poor policy for any athlete to get involved in another country’s affairs. Do what you believe in and leave the politics out of it.”
Mr Dunkley believes the PGA Tour gave players plenty of time to prepare to get vaccinated before travelling to Bermuda for the tournament.
He said: “The PGA Tour was up front with their players well before that. If you were going to come to Bermuda you had to be vaccinated or quarantine for 14 days. So at the last minute for the gentleman to say that he is withdrawing because of that, he had ample notice to make a decision and discuss it well before now.
“Unfortunately the professional golfer has come out on the wrong end of the stick on this one. People have called me today and said, ‘I’m glad you hit out at that guy’.”
Attempts to get a comment from government officials yesterday were unsuccessful.
Justin Belanger, the tournament director for the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, said Mr Beljan’s posting on Twitter was unfortunate. The comments have since been taken down.
“While the social post has since been removed, it is unfortunate that Charlie has chosen to take this position,” Mr Belanger said.
“The Butterfield Bermuda Championship remains 100 per cent behind those who continue to work tirelessly to keep our community safe.”
Some of the comments on Twitter supported the stance of Mr Beljan while others did not.
One tongue-in-cheek response said: “A real shame you won’t be playing that week in Bermuda, you would have had the weekend off to enjoy the island and all its glory.”
Mr Beljan turned professional in 2007 and is ranked No 1,836 in the world, with career earnings of $3,864,895. He has had ten wins as a professional, with his only PGA Tour win coming in 2012 at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic days after suffering a severe panic attack that required him to be taken to hospital in Florida.
No stranger to controversy on social media, he referred to Barack Obama, the sitting US president, as a “D Bag” in 2012.