The Fortinet Australian PGA and WPGA Championships have been thrown into chaos after several players tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Tournament headliners, LPGA Tour members Sarah Kemp and Stephanie Kyriacou, were among a group of both male and female players to return positive rapid antigen tests in the past 48 hours.

At the time of writing, Kyriacou was still waiting for confirmation of her COVID status via a follow-up PCR test, with tournament officials holding out hope she may yet be given the green light to play.

However, Kemp, 36, told Australian Golf Digest she had no hesitation in withdrawing less than 24 hours after declaring her intentions to lift the Karrie Webb Cup, knowing the turnaround time for a PCR test result won’t come before Thursday’s opening round.

“It sucks. It really sucks,” Kemp says. “I’m more worried about passing it on to someone than my place in the tournament. That’s my main concern right now.”

Kemp tested negative twice on Tuesday after learning her sister, who she had been in contact with, had contracted the virus. But after waking up with a headache this morning, she took two further tests a few hours apart and both came back positive. She’s now resigned to watching this week’s tournament in isolation.

“I tried so hard to avoid catching COVID-19 [on tour in America],” she added. “I’m triple-vaxxed, and so very careful. Of all the places I thought I would catch COVID, I didn’t think it would be back home in Australia.”

With the earlier withdrawal of Perth-based superstar Hannah Green due to logistical challenges with interstate travel, Kemp had assumed the mantle of ‘marquee player’ in the women’s field this week after somewhat of a career resurgence in 2021. She started last year with a strong tie for fifth at the Gainbridge LPGA tournament in Florida where the only four golfers ahead of her were Major winners. Two further top-10s and her best-ever finish in a Major, when she finished 19th behind winner Minjee Lee at the Evian Championship in France, were big positives. 

“There’s no better way to start the year than this tournament, especially playing at home. It’s absolutely perfect,” Kemp told media yesterday. “My coach is here so he can see where my game is at before I head over to the States.”  

With a hectic international schedule, Kyriacou has had limited opportunities to play in Australia since winning the Australian Ladies Classic at Bonville in February 2020 and was excited at the prospect of starting her 2022 campaign on home soil.

“It will be nice to compete at home before I have to leave again for the start of the LPGA Tour season,” Kyriacou said in the lead-up to the tournament. “It’s going to be a great way to get my year underway and hopefully I’ll leave Royal Queensland with the Karrie Webb Cup.”

The chaos has left tournament officials frantically trying to finalise both fields before round-one tee-times are released later this afternoon. It is believed several reserves are on standby in the event that more positive cases are confirmed.