- Alistair Tait
Diversity training for golf?
Well done to Justin Thomas for immediately apologising for the homophobic slur he made during the third round of the Sentry Tour of Champions in Hawaii. Why does our game still make these mistakes?
Hasn’t anything been learned since Fuzzy Zoeller all those years ago at the Masters?
Thomas missed a five-foot putt on the fourth hole and microphones picked up his reaction. It wasn’t his best response to a missed putt.
"It's inexcusable. First off, I just apologise," Thomas said.
"I'm an adult. I'm a grown man, there's absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It's terrible. I'm extremely embarrassed.
"It's not who I am, it's not the kind of person that I am or anything that I do.
"Unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I'm very apologetic."
The PGA Tour is likely to fine Thomas, as it should. Perhaps it needs to educate its players better. This isn’t the first time a player has opened mouth and inserted foot. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last. Nor is it the first time golf has shown itself to be out of touch with the rest of society.
I was at THAT Masters when Zoeller uttered his awful “fried chicken and collard greens” line in reference to Tiger Woods. In fact, AP reporter Doug Ferguson and I were the journalists interviewing Zoeller. Doug and I were canvassing players’ opinions when they came off the 18th green on what impact Woods would have on the game.
Zoeller stopped and gave us his thoughts. We thought the interview was over when he started walking away, that’s when he turned and casually uttered the offensive statement. Unbeknown to us, a TV crew was filming Zoeller over our shoulders and the remark went as viral as such a remark could have gone in the days before social media.
Can you imagine the reaction nowadays?
Zoeller apologised but lost millions in endorsement contracts as a result, and rightly so. It’ll be interesting to see if Thomas loses any endorsements as a result of his actions.
Sergio Garcia made a casual racist gaffe towards Woods at a European Tour awards evening many years ago. He, too, had to apologise. Former European Tour chief executive George O’Grady tried to come to Garcia’s defence and also got embroiled in the controversy.
R&A rules official Graham Brown gave a speech at the Association of Golf Writers dinner ahead of the 2007 Open Championship full of racist overtones. I was there. It was awful and highly embarrassing, especially with guests in the room, many of whom were golf power brokers. The R&A and the AGW had to issue apologies. Brown, a former Royal Liverpool captain and member of the R&A rules committee, was sent home from the championship. It virtually ended his life in golf. He hasn’t been heard from since.
It wasn’t the first time a speaker at the AGW dinner had misread the room. Former Professional Golfers Association chief executive Sandy Jones once have a speech full of offensive, sexist jokes. Another highly embarrassing evening for golf writers and their guests.
Carolyn Bivens proved she wasn’t exactly suited for career in the diplomatic core with her “English only” policy towards Korean players when she was LPGA commissioner.
I could go on.
Isolated incidents? Perhaps, but golf isn’t exactly a vast bastion of liberalism. Perhaps many in our game need diversity training?
#JustSaying: “What a stupid I am?” Roberto de Vicenzo