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  • Alistair Tait

Golf and politics don’t mix

Stephen Gallacher had much to deal with when he played in the 2014 Ryder Cup. Not only was he making his debut in the biennial match, he was making it in his homeland. The last thing he needed was to get involved in politics on the eve of the match.

Gallacher didn’t. Perhaps Jack Nicklaus should have refrained from opining on politics this week, too. Golf and politics don’t always mix, as Nicklaus has found out.

The Ryder Cup took place right after the Scottish Referendum vote. A German reporter asked Gallacher if he’d voted. Gallacher said yes, before the reporter asked how he’d voted. The three-time European Tour winner wisely stayed schtum. When asked if the referendum result would influence the match, Gallacher said:

“I don't think it will have any effect on the event, no. I think politics is politics and this is golf. I'm not a politician. I'm a golfer, and these things happen in every country. It just so happened the same time as the Ryder Cup, and you know, that said, it’s done and dusted and I'm just trying to get on the tee Friday hopefully and give it my best shot.”

Give the Bathgate man an eagle for his diplomacy. Revealing his stance on Scottish independence might have put him on a hiding to nothing. The last thing he needed was to alienate a section of the Ryder Cup crowd who disagreed with his vote.

If only Nicklaus had done that this week. Yet the 18-time major winner not only said who he voted for in the U.S. election, he included an open letter explaining why voters should follow him and endorse Donald Trump.

Of course, Nicklaus is perfectly entitled to his opinion, and to vote how he likes in the U.S. election. It’s not my place as Brit to criticise his or anyone else’s choice of candidate. As former Golfweek colleague Alex Miceli wrote on Morning Read:

“I support Nicklaus’ right to tweet and to say that he supports a candidate for president. But to make it so public and so vehement makes me wonder why arguably the best golfer who ever played the game would take such a stand.”

My feelings too. This is one of the most divisive U.S. elections ever. Quite why Nicklaus would wade into it so publicly is a head scratcher, especially since he’s been the ultimate diplomat throughout his career. Nicklaus seems oblivious to the grief he’s caused so many of his fans, many of whom are Biden supporters and detest Donald Trump and all he stands for.

“I know it was going to cause me some grief,” Nicklaus said. “I knew when I did that that I would have certain percentage of the people (who) are not Trump fans and a certain percent of the people (who) are. The comments I have gotten, and Barbara (his wife) has gotten, have been overwhelmingly supportive of what I did.
“Of course, they’re probably people that are more interested in Trump. I don’t know anybody interested in Biden.”

Tiger Woods has made a career out of saying practically nothing on most things outside of golf during his career. You can see why. He knows whatever he says is going to make headlines. Who needs those when you’re trying to win golf tournaments?

Maybe because Nicklaus is no longer trying to win golf tournaments he feels ‘what the hell, I can say whatever I like?’ However, he’s made a quadruple bogey on this occasion and upset a lot of lifelong fans. Just check his Twitter timeline. (By the way, the same goes if he’d come out in support of Joe Biden.)

In talking about his support for Trump, Nicklaus said:

Has he made some mistakes in life? Sure, everybody makes some mistakes in life.”

The Golden Bear has made a massive mistake on this occasion, and I’m a huge Nicklaus fan.

#JustSaying: “If I had my way, any man guilty of golf would be ineligible for any public office in the United States.” H.L. Mencken


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