The Content of Golfs Character

By Adam BarrOctober 17, 2003, 4:00 pm
My column last week, which compared the gifts and challenges of being Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, got a lot of e-mail response. Much of it was good, and some of it was constructively critical as well.
 
Some of those comments touched on racial differences between Palmer and Woods ' not just the obvious difference between Palmer, the Caucasian, and Woods, whose ancestry includes both African-Americans and Asians, but also the differing attitudes about race in the times when each man was at the height of his popularity. Heres an example of the kind of e-mail I received on this issue:
 
How many golfers of color were there on tour [in 1964]; and how many were allowed to play? A kinder gentler time indeed. Tiger made golf fashionable for the younger players, and more reachable for some of us.
 
I had never intended to cast the comparison between Palmer and Woods in terms of race. Its commendable in the e-mail correspondents on this issue that they approached what they saw as a flaw in my point of view with extreme respect and politeness, yet with unflagging strength of their convictions. (One writer offered his view, as he put it, in the hope that your minds eye would be broadened. Anyone can stand that sort of correction.)
 
The responses, juxtaposed as they were with the utterly indefensible remarks Jan Stephenson made last week, got me thinking about racism in golf, and how the noble mixes with the ugly.
 
Answering a question about problems the LPGA faces in an interview in Golf magazine, Stephenson said, among other things, that the Asians are killing our tour. Absolutely killing it. Their lack of emotion, their refusal to speak English when they can speak English. They rarely speak. We have two-day pro-ams where people are paying a lot of money to play with us, and they say hello and goodbye. Our tour is predominantly international and the majority of them are Asian. Theyve taken it over.
 
Fact-checking problems abound here ' I know for a fact that many of the Asian players Stephenson derides speak no more English than I do Korean ' and Annika Sorenstam might have something to say about Asian dominance, unless Sweden moved to Asia in the dead of night. And I defy anyone to travel to a country where they dont speak the language, try to make a living at a difficult sport, and see how sociable they feel.
 
More problematic, though, is the willingness of a public figure in golf to ascribe what she sees as poor behavior to race and nationality, rather than personality.
 
If the women Stephenson complains about indeed stiff their pro-am partners, its not because the pro hostesses are Asian. One notable Australian player is famous for her rudeness to reporters and her aloofness in general; clearly shes not Asian. This principle is so obvious that it shouldnt require mention. Its painful that someone who has made a life in the best of games, a game where equality, merit and honor have historically been at the forefront, should need to be told this.
 
Stephensons spin following the interview didnt help. Of course she said she didnt mean to deride Asians as a racial group. And she may not have. But lunkheaded insults hurt no less than purposeful hate. That is, you dont have to be a career intentional bigot to reveal by careless speech and actions your insensitivity to people who arent like you.
 
Even more disturbing are the subtle cues within the world of golf that vestiges of discrimination remain. Heres part of another e-mail, in which the writer maintained that Palmer didnt face the societal challenges Woods deals with. After making that point, the writer included a personal note:
 
I'm someone of an African American background, and for the past three years I've been attending golf matches like the Buick Classic, Greater Hartford Open, the U.S. Open & the PGA Championship. And I tell you, women still clutch their bags a little tighter when I get near them, people shift their belongings to a safer position, or stare at me like I'm doing something wrong. Mr. Barr, I'm as clean-cut as the next guy ' no, let me rephrase that ' I would even go as far as to say that I'm even more clean-cut looking then the next guy. I wear dress slacks, shoes, glasses with a button-down shirt, I speak in a natural soft tone. I even have a big bright smile and people still look at me in fear or like I'm beneath them. So I could only imagine how rough/challenging it was for [Tiger], coming up through the golf ranks. Feeling out of place, because people don't want you there.
 
And indeed, Woods and his father have told stories of bad behavior toward them on some golf courses in southern California when Tiger was growing up.
 
You can say as much as you want that the shoddy behavior of fans at tournaments the e-mail writer attended really has nothing to do with golf: They would do the same thing on the subway, at a caf, at a ball game, right? Well, yes. But the fundamental truth is, whatever the reason for this behaviors proximity to golf, it is unworthy of the games nobility. Inside or outside the ropes, one of golfs primary attractions is that it is a meritocracy. Get the ball into the hole in the least strokes, and you win. Thats all. Nowadays, color, national origin, gender ' none of that should matter. I say nowadays because, sadly, it once did matter, and the fact that it did kept huge talents such as Charlie Sifford, the late Althea Gibson and many others from earning their due.
 
Within reason and without hypersensitivity (and none of my e-mail correspondents on this issue were oversensitive), its time for a zero-tolerance policy on racism, ethnocentrism and sexism in golf. Its the only way to convince the next generation that inclusion is the only way to go.
 
Golf ' and everyone who loves it ' deserves that.
 
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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.