There are no boundaries to ignorance. Even people with an I.Q. north of 180 can demonstrate incredible stupidity at times. Don’t believe it? You need look no further than Washington, D.C. for a few hundred examples of so-called smart men and women doing incredibly dumb things. Need another example? How about the NFL where the owners and players (more the owners than players) are willing to jeopardize a $9 billion golden goose? Hopefully, by the time this is published, that problem will have been resolved. There is no hope for Washington. Which brings us to our current debate; Are golfers athletes (the subplot of which is golf a real sport)? I have encountered far too many people, most of whom have never played golf beyond the level where the object is to get the ball through the windmill and into the clown’s mouth, who insist that golfers are non-athletes and that golf is not a real sport.
Their arguments, for the most part are centered on two premises; One, you have to run and sweat like a pig for it to be a real sport and two, if golfers were real athletes than how could somebody like Craig Stadler win the 1982 Masters or somebody like Chris Patten capture the 1989 United States Amateur? To wit I reply; Based on that assessment how could Nate Newton have played in the NFL, Mickey Lolich been a dominant pitcher in the major leagues and Cecil and Prince Fielder have been such prodigious hitters? Shaq? Just because somebody doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of ‘Jack Armstrong, All American Boy’, does not exclude them from being athletic. Just because somebody can’t run like Usain Bolt or Jackie Joyner-Kersee doesn’t reduce them to a bar stool sitting slob like Norm from “Cheers”. The great thing about golf is that Norm can still play and enjoy the game if he so chooses. You don’t have to be athletic to play golf. You just need to be athletic to play it well.
The Norms of the world can’t play big league baseball and that doesn’t prevent them from beer league softball. To play golf proficiently an individual must possess tremendous eye-hand coordination as well as the ability to repeat a very precise athletic move, the pendulum swing, all while maintaining near perfect balance. They also must be able to control their emotions and fight off inner demons like no other sport, because in golf one’s biggest enemy is seldom one’s body, but rather that space between one’s ears. Although golf is legendary for having hustlers, there is no way to overcome one’s un-athletic ability through sheer hustle as there is in other sports. Most sports are reactionary because there is almost always a human opponent. In golf you may be among a field of competitors, but in reality you are competing against yourself. Now I will be the first to admit that there are two golf worlds. In the first world, the one in which most of us exist, the argument that golfers are not athletes and that golf is more a game than a sport, is very valid. In this world golf is recreation, a game, a way to let off steam and maybe (provided they don’t go around the course in a gas or electric cart) get some exercise. But if a person is to excel in golf, be it at the highest amateur levels or as a professional, they must be athletic. Most good golfers were also proficient in other sports, either outstanding high school or even collegiate athletes. Yes, in the old days, a great many of those who played the PGA Tour were a little on the portly side, smoked like chimneys and spent a good deal of their off time imbibing spirits in the 19th hole. But until Carl Yastrzemski changed the way all athletes train (hiring a personal trainer between the 1966 and ’67 seasons), other professional athletes sat around and grew soft and chubby during their off seasons.
Today’s professional golfers train intensely, year round. They run, lift, stretch and study good nutrition habits. Top amateurs do likewise. If they don’t they end up playing with the rest of us, trudging or riding around 18 holes, spending a lot of time in the woods and eagerly awaiting the end of the round where they can start working on the next round, or rounds, in the grille room. So you still don’t think that golfers are athletes? Don’t let the windmill hit you in the head like it obviously did Gorman.
(Tim Geary is a Rhode Island-based freelance writer. He played all the major sports in his younger days, none of which were as maddening as golf)WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?