Religion politics and Tiger

By Michael FechterAugust 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
There are two topics mothers warn their children to never discuss in public: Religion and politics.
My mother should have added a third: The mere mention of Tiger Woods and retirement.
A couple of weeks ago, I did that. Me, the winner of the 1980 Al Esposito Junior Invitational, suggested that perhaps the greatest golfer of all time hang up the spikes at 32. . . you'd've thought I suggested that Kobayashi retire from competitive eating out of concern for his health.
There was, shall we say, a passionate response to my suggestion. Tiger is a near-billionaire who drives TV ratings and endorsement deals to a level unimaginable before he joined the Tour. His avid followers number in the millions. They wear his clothes, they drink his electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks, they are members in the same credit card club, and they sit on their butts for hours watching his every move on TV.
They do not, however, play golf. At least, not nearly enough.
OK, OK, I dont need another 743 e-mails telling me how lacking I am or that Tiger has inspired you to marry a Swedish nanny. Those who visit tend to be avid golfers who play many more rounds of golf per year than the average person. I get it.
And, the golf industry as a whole has had a tremendous growth spurt that started more or less at the same time Tiger first put fear into the hearts of every other touring pro. New courses were built. More rounds were played each year than the previous. It was a trend that just couldnt stop until it did.
Now, we have more and more courses competing for fewer and fewer paid rounds. Young people are not coming into the game like they once did. Heck, Tigers in rehab, and apparently Ive started a world-wide rumor that hes about to retire. There is much behind the scenes hand wringing. 'What can be done?' Golf course owners, the U.S. Golf Association, the PGA of America and equipment manufacturers all wonder.
Fortunately, I am here to save golf.
My primary job as the 'Ambassador of Fun' for golf courses from Malibu Country Club to Battle Creek in Tulsa is to come up with ways to make the game more enjoyable. The more fun golfers have, the more rounds they will play.
Sometimes that means putting large helium balloons on the range so that people have a new target and can work on the trajectory of their shots. Were also setting up the 'Bach and Beatle's Open' which is a day of tournament play followed by the local symphony playing Bach and The Beatles outdoors under the stars. Thoroughly enjoyable.
But, the easiest, most cost-effective way to enjoy the game more is to simply play faster. If we can speed up play, more people will take up the game. And owners will be able to get more people on the course during any given day.
The USGA and other golf officials feel that slow play drives avid golfers out of the game and discourages new golfers from committing to a recreation that is time consuming. Its a new problem that used to be golfs greatest virtue. My father had nine reasons to play golf every chance he could ' those being his eight kids and his wife. Golf kept the man sane.
But, those were the days before rampant divorce. Now, we time-share our children, and if even one visitation is delayed by 15 minutes due to a round with the boys, off to family court you shall go.

Recently, I discovered that it is really fun to run to your ball after your tee shot. That 285-yard jog down the middle. . . .or, rather, my 206-yard trot to the first cut of rough on the right is heart smart and just plain fun. And then whacking the ball again and chasing it down is even better. It's like combining golf and ultimate Frisbee.
There are now these fantastic new 'push' carts that make it possible to really move on a golf course. These new carts move with the ease that Madonna beds sports stars.
I must admit that running after your shots is nothing new. For years, I have heard of 'speed golf' where a person runs the course while another person follows in a motorized cart with their clubs. Well, with these new push carts, a chauffeur is no longer needed. With a push cart, golf can even be a bit of an upper body workout. Thats something that has never been said about golf before. But, its something that seems to have done Tiger Woods and the other 'athletes' of golf great good.
To test my theory, my writing partner, Tom, and I recently jogged our local Charleston Municipal Golf Course. We started at 6:30 p.m., after a rain when the course was clear and we played 18 holes in just under 2 hours.
Thats about how long it used to take me to play the same course years ago in the early mornings with two 80-year-old speed walkers, Mr. Mac and Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson carried a portable oxygen tank in his bag in case he got winded. I carried an asthma inhaler and a flare gun in case I got left behind. We were kindred spirits.
So, what does it say that I can barely jog a course now faster than I could once 'speed walk' it with two 80-year-old men? Well, lets just say that the U.S. Track and Field Selection Committee has never called me and probably never will.
That, and Tom needs to stop pushing his tee shots onto Maybank Highway. Police tend to view running immediately after driving a ball into oncoming traffic with a different eye than a dedicated speed golfer.
We can all play faster, have more fun in doing it and still have time to spend with our children. It's good for the game. And its good for you.
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
Editor's note: Michael Fechter, orphan worker and humorist, has the best job in golf: he's paid to be the Ambassador of Fun for golf courses across America. His 'job' is to make the courses he represents across America more interesting, unique and fun. Enjoy his humorous series on getting back into the game as he struggles to get his game into the shape it was nearly 30 years ago when he won his only personal junior 'major,' the Al Esposito, on America's easiest muni with rounds of 71-71-75.
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