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The Dilettantes of the PGA

Golf is a Pussy Game

by DAVID MACARAY

By all accounts, the most difficult thing to do in sports is hit a moving baseball.  Virtually every sports writer who ever lived agrees with that observation.  The ball is traveling at upwards of 95 mph.  You’re standing approximately 60 feet away.  The 5.25 ounce sphere reaches you in less than seven-tenths of a second.  Sometimes the pitch curves, sometimes it sinks, sometimes it hops.  You’re trying to hit a round object with a round club.

If you’re talented and fortunate enough to play in the Majors for 12-15 years, and you’re able to hit safely 3 out of every 10 times at bat, you have a good chance of not only being recognized as one of the game’s true stars, but of eventually being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Think about that.  You regularly fail 7 out of 10 times during your entire career, yet you’re still celebrated as one of the greatest players of all-time.  That’s how difficult baseball is.

But there’s another component to the art of hitting.  It’s called courage.  Not only do you have to instantaneously decide if the pitch is a fastball or breaking ball, a ball or a strike, you have to be aware that the object coming at you at close to 100 mph could hit you in the face, possibly crippling you, or even ending your career.  And you have to deal with these variables on every single pitch, during every single at-bat.

Add to all of this the ear-splitting noise being generated by a hostile crowd. You’re at the plate, your team is behind by one run in the ninth inning, there’s a runner on second base, there are two out, and the count is 2-2.  You’re in the batter’s box, scared spitless, being asked to do what is universally recognized as the most difficult thing in sports.

If there was ever a time that an athlete needed peace and quiet in order to concentrate on the task at hand, this is it.  But the crowd noise is so loud, so shrill, it approaches the decibel level of a jet engine.  It’s deafening.  These rabid fans are literally screaming themselves hoarse, all 60,000 of them.  Indeed, the stadium itself, solid and well-anchored in tons of cement as it is, is actually ever-so-slightly rocking.

Now let’s consider golf.  A pro golfer stands over a two-foot putt.  The gallery is dead silent.  The golfer studies the ball.  The crowd inhales; no one dares exhale. Then, just as he’s about to strike the ball, some guy in the crowd sneezes.  The golfer abruptly straightens up, steps away, and glares at the man.  People shush the hapless sneezer, who cringes in humiliation.  A moment later, with the gallery once again silent, the golfer taps the ball in.  Applause.

Why is no one permitted to scream during golf?  After all, it’s a sports event, isn’t it?  You paid your way in, didn’t you?  Why is no one allowed to shout at the top of their lungs, “Hey, mister! You’re going to miss it!”  But if you pull a stunt like that, the marshals escort you right off the course.  Still, what makes golfers so special?

Are these guys so refined that wisecracks and booing from the audience is going to give them the heebie-jeebies?  For crying out loud, the ball isn’t even moving.  It’s just sitting there.  You stare at it for as long as you like, then you wind up and hit it.  Simple as that.  Unlike baseball, it’s not suddenly going to fly up, hit you in the face, and shatter your cheekbone.

Granted, golf takes ability and finesse.  No one’s denying that.  But if baseball players can do their thing with tens of thousands of hostile fans urging them to fail, golfers should be able to handle hecklers.  “Hey, Tiger….you’re going to land in the sand trap! Har, har, har.”  If these PGA dilettantes can’t take the pressure of hostile crowds, let ‘em stick with miniature golf.

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net