The Symetra Tour’s season finale is happening this week at River Run Country Club in Davidson, North Carolina, but the top-ranked player on the season-long money list isn’t there. Instead, she’s hunkered over an e-reader in a hotel room roughly 20 miles away in Charlotte, North Carolina.
So continues the year of COVID.
Fatima Fernandez Cano, a 25-year-old from Spain, has now tested positive for the virus two times. In mid-July, she had to sit out of the Symetra Tour’s Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship, the first event on the tour’s restart, because of a positive test. Now, Cano is missing the season finale.
“Before our first event back post-quarantine, I tested positive as well,” Cano said. “That time I didn’t have any symptoms or anything. The way protocol worked back then, it wouldn’t matter whether I got retested right away or anything like that, I had to quarantine for 10 days anyways, unfortunately.
“So I did that and then of course this time around, I do have some symptoms so there was no chance for me to play at all.”
Cano reports a loss of smell and taste this time that she didn’t experience this summer. She thinks the first positive test was likely a false positive. Cano hasn’t experienced any other symptoms this week.
✔️Room feeling smaller by the minute
✔️Already reached my @netflix watching limit before my brain explodes
✔️Quarantine reading starts now. Figured this one is a good one to start on given the circumstances… drop any recommendations you got, I have time 😎 pic.twitter.com/Xq9hkwJ9YE
— Fatima Fernandez Cano (@fatifcano) November 3, 2020
When Cano found out on Nov. 1 that she had tested positive again, she was driving from Pinehurst (where she finished T-32 at last week’s Carolina Golf Classic) to this week’s stop in Davidson. She was supposed to stay with a host family for this week’s tournament, but the tour found her a hotel instead. She’ll remain there for seven days from her positive test date of Oct. 30.
“I actually did some grocery shopping online and they drop it off at my hotel,” she said. “Ordering food online and stuff like that. They literally just drop it off at my door, which is great. It’s super easy.”
Early week, she was taking book recommendations by Twitter, having spent her first day in isolation doing nothing but watching TV and movies.
“I kind of decided that would not be very good for me,” she said. “I’m putting a limit on how much TV I can watch and just start reading.”
Fortunately, Cano’s hotel room is plenty big. She also has yoga and at-home workouts she can do.
None of it is ideal, but Cano recognizes it’s a situation out of her control.
“Honestly, I was actually very happy that I am or was leading the money list, having to miss one event due to this circumstance that is out of my control. I was pretty proud of the way I came back,” she said.
— Fatima Fernandez Cano (@fatifcano) July 17, 2020
At stake at this week’s Tour Championship? LPGA status for 2021 as well as a spot in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open for the top 5 players on the season-ending money list.
Cano leads that list with $48,069 for eight events, and is $12,471 ahead of Lucy Li, who sits in the No. 6 position. For now, Cano is hoping not to be bumped out of the top 5.
“My goal was to finish the season No. 1,” she said. “That was something I was working toward.”
Cano, a Spaniard who competed for Troy University from 2013-17, has never had LPGA status. She’s trying not to get too excited about that prospect yet for fear of the jinx.
At the end of the 2019 Symetra Tour season, Cano was 24th on the money list. She attributes this year’s better play to work in the gym, which allowed her to gain some distance. She also feels more confident over putts.
“COVID in a way taught me how much I love competing, how much I love being out there,” she said. “Not having that tour life, that competition for four or five months that we didn’t have it, it made me appreciate it more.”
For the past three years, Cano has been based in Birmingham. After graduating from Troy in 2017, she realized she needed a place to practice and a way to make money as she worked her way up the professional golf ladder. Cano began working in the golf shop at Shoal Creek Country Club.
After playing in LPGA Q-School that fall, she was accepted into Shoal Creek’s Tour Hopefuls program, which includes about 15 players. Cano is currently the only female among them, but LPGA player Emma Talley, the 2015 NCAA individual champion, is an alum.
When Shoal Creek hosted the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, Cano got to tee it up on the weekend as a marker. She played in the first group out with Daniela Darquea. Cano also qualified for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston, but missed the cut with back-to-back rounds of 74.
Having been inside the ropes makes Cano all the more hopeful that in the end, it will all work out. After all, she’s due for a bit of good luck.