Monday, November 26, 2007

Stop Crying and Just Play Already

There was a great piece penned for Links Magazine talking about how golf appears to be suffering from slow play at all levels. And I could not agree more with it. The piece also talks about how ratings for golf on television are down - in part - because golf is just too slow to watch.

It's more than that, though. The slow pace of play simply adds to the perception that golfers are slow, out of shape, WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) who saunter around without the slightest hint of athleticism or manliness to play a game that is stereotypically played only by the wealthy.

As part of that description comes to belief that golfers are not manly men. The announcers talk in such muted tones that can make sure a viewer will doze off if the Ben Cranes of the world (the most infamous slow golfer of current note) do not do it first. The signs that marshalls hold up at every venue for spectators to be quiet make the average person think that these guys are only good when it is quiet. In no other sport are the athletes allowed to compete in utter silence. (I know it is a respect thing, but go with me.) Then, there is the fact that golfers openly complain to fans through the media.

And that brings me to Robert Allenby. He complained about fans at the Mastercard Masters and said that he may not return in the future without assurances that he will not be harassed.

I was about to tee off and there was three guys who had obviously been drinking and they were pretty loud. I just asked if they could quieten it down while Aaron and I hit our shots.

One of the guys said, 'As long as you say it nice to us'. I just said, 'Hey, can you please keep it down?' I said it in a nice way and I had to back off three times.

I just let it go and got up to the green and then they just started mouthing off, stuff like, 'Allenby is crap' and foul language I won't repeat.

They came back at the 15th and they were heckling me there. I was trying to line up a putt and I was never going to make it, my concentration was shot. By the time I got to 16, the police had moved in and then they (hecklers) said the worst possible things.

I think it's heading for disaster. If I have another experience like I did on Saturday, I don't think I'll be coming back.

Look. I know that golf fans are supposed to be respectful and no one likes a drunken jerk at any sporting event - even ones where lots of noise is expected. But, in every other sport in the world, the professionals accept the conditions given them and fix them quietly if they can. Allenby could have had these guys removed and never mentioned it to the media as an out for his poor performance on Saturday. That was not why he played poorly. He just happened to play bad that day.

Incidents like this one, the No Love incident at the Accenture Match Play, and others make professional golfers look like a lesser kind of athlete. Even if they are, perception is what matters most. The perception of pro golf and pro golfers cannot change unless there is a conscious effort to man up and play the game at a decent speed, without excuses, and with more emotion. Until then, the pro game cannot get in front of new eyes - that is, without them closing to go to sleep.

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