Golf Elitism and the Loss of a Generation

By Adam BarrMay 11, 2001, 4:00 pm
What was the deal with Moses? The group he and the Almighty tour-guided out of Egypt had to wander in the desert for, what, 40 years? Something about the generation of the enslaved not being able to cross into the Promised Land.
The same thing may be true of modern golf. Whatever gains golf makes in becoming a game of the masses may not be enjoyed until the next generation. The reason: Elitism.
Those of us who work in the game cannot deny the lingering effects of American golf's exclusive past. Despite the participation of at least 50 million people worldwide (half of those in the U.S.), even with the development of programs such as the First Tee, golf still suffers from the vestiges of its elitist reputation.
Stop ten people on the street and you'll probably find two golfers. The remainder will have heard of Tiger Woods. But a few more questions of the remaining eight will reveal in at least half of them the notion that golf is 'a rich man's sport,' 'for country club people' - choose your catchphrase.
In popular culture, advertisements and magazine articles aimed at the early-20s set often paint golf as the bastion of those who favor plaid pants and afternoon naps. If you see an ad with a kid in baggy khaki shorts and unwashed hair playing golf, rest assured it was generated by a golf company desperate to get such youngsters to pick up a club - and not put it down.
We have no one to blame but our American selves. Or at least our ancestors. In this country, golf ignored its egalitarian Scottish roots and became the province of private clubs. (Not that there weren't private clubs in Scotland. But the rise of town links in the Auld Sod was as natural as crocuses in the spring, and access to the game for all has been a cherished tradition there since the first shepherd cut a 3-crook into a tight green.)
But here, by the 1950s each major city had (and some still have) its Catholic club, its Episcopalian club, its Jewish club, its men's club - the sad list goes on and on, a litany of criteria whose very existence flouts the goodness of golf's ideal: We shake hands on the first tee and compete, person to person, on the basis of merit and merit alone.

The effects of such behavior take a long time to slough off. Meanwhile, some golfers are made to feel unworthy of others' clubs, or to feel unworthy of any private club. And potential golfers may well feel that the game in general just isn't for anyone but the highfalutin and un-humble.
What worries me is that I see the effects of such attitudes on other sports. Tennis enjoyed a massive jump in popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Seemed like everyone was hitting balls and having a fine time. But then tennis dropped off the national radar, largely because of access problems, the development of the power game, and the white-clothes-only, stay-away-from-my-private-club attitude of some players. And no amount of Agassi has helped.
Fly-fishing has a similar problem. Here is an admittedly expensive sport that doesn't seem to want more participants. I fish, and an ad in a magazine I used to receive regularly lamented the recent surge of greenhorns, saying, 'Don't worry. Soon they'll make a movie about some other sport.' The copy refers to A River Runs Through It, the 1992 Robert Redford movie that attracted many to fly-fishing's bucolic benefits. Funny way to treat potential customers.
Kudos to the First Tee and any program that extols the virtues of golf while keeping things light and welcoming. Can you imagine a world where more people played golf than didn't? Would the world be more mature? Would fewer people cut each other off on I-95? Would fair play increase noticeably?
I'd sure like to find out.
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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.