What if a Tour player said he was gay? A major champ weighs in

By Jason SobelMay 1, 2013, 2:19 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – One big aftereffect of NBA player Jason Collins’ announcement on Monday that he is gay – becoming the first current athlete in a major American team sport has come out publicly – is that it’s sparked discussions as to how athletes in other sports would react to a fellow player making a similar declaration. Even in golf. Even on the PGA Tour. Even in an idling courtesy car of a major champion who felt the need to expand upon earlier statements.

There has never been an openly gay PGA Tour member, which raises the question about the potential reaction.

Upon arriving at Quail Hollow Club on Tuesday, the first player I saw was Webb Simpson – and I asked him that question. It was part of his pre-tournament interview session with the media, admittedly mixed awkwardly among questions about the state of the Quail Hollow greens, his upcoming U.S. Open title defense and playing a home game here this week.

Still, the 27-year-old pro handled the query with all the deftness of an uphill 3-foot putt.

“I hope they would respond in a respectful way,” he said. “We've got a lot of personalities out on Tour, so I know if it happened, I would hope that everyone would not do anything to make the person feel bad or to put them down. That's the way I think of our Tour. Our Tour is a place where guys know each other and see each other every week. It's different than the NBA. You've got your one small team, but the Tour is kind of like a big family.”

Maybe that was the expected response, but it was also thoughtful and sincere.

The surprising part came 15 minutes later. My cellphone buzzed and it was Simpson, who wanted to further discuss the issue. This wasn’t an instance of a player attempting to retract his comments or more clearly define his point of view. He just wanted the forum to expand on his thoughts about how such a revelation would be received on golf’s highest level.

So we ducked into his courtesy car and Simpson began expanding.

“If you asked every player, you’d have a few different responses,” he said. “I think there would be guys who just wouldn’t care one way or the other. They wouldn’t want to talk about it, wouldn’t want to go there; it’s a non-issue to them.

“I think there would be a group who would applaud it. They would see courage in them coming out and be proud of them.

“And I think you’d have another camp that would be against it. Whether it’s their beliefs or values they’ve grown up with, I think you’d have a camp that would be against it, as well.”

True to his words, when some of his peers were questioned on the same topic – not for their personal thoughts about one of their own coming out on Tour, but as part of the general consensus – few offered no comment, few declined to speculate on what is for now a hypothetical situation and others felt indifferent toward the issue.

“I don’t think it would be a problem,” Bo Van Pelt stated. “To each his own. It doesn’t really have any effect on my life, so I don’t see what the problem would be. It’s the evolution of the time that we’re in. I think we’re going to get to the point pretty soon where you don’t even have to talk about stuff like this.”

It’s been nine years since 13-time LPGA champion Rosie Jones wrote a New York Times article announcing she is gay. This was just prior to the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and Jones remembers receiving enormous amounts of support from the LPGA, its players, sponsors and fans.

She believes that such a disclosure by a male player on the highest circuit may not be afforded the same luxuries.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there are a couple of gay guys on the PGA Tour,” Jones speculated. “I don’t know if there are any, but there probably are. … As far as the sexuality goes, I think it’s harder there because guys scrutinize that a lot more. I think it would be really hard.”

Even so, she thinks it wouldn’t be as difficult as the announcement Collins made earlier this week.

“I think it would probably be easier for someone to come out on the PGA Tour than a team sport,” Jones added. “You run the show. You only answer to yourself. That’s really important for something like this. You have to make yourself happy. There are a lot of people who feel better in their skin, like I do, if they’re open with themselves and their lives, if they’re not trying to protect anything. That becomes really hard.”

There would undoubtedly be a different set of hurdles for an openly gay PGA Tour player to climb than there was for Jones or Collins or anyone else, for that matter. Each case is specific unto itself.

Then again, as Simpson succinctly said of the potential scenario before driving away, “Really, it’s just like any other profession.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm