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  • Alistair Tait

Golf needs to keep its elitist image in check

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Former Golf Magazine editor George Peper delivered a speech on the eve of the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews that had many of us in the room giving him the thumbs up.

With PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and European Tour CEO George O'Grady sitting just a few feet away, Peper said:

“Golf isn’t about FedEx Cups and Race to Dubai points. If professional golf were to vanish from the earth tomorrow, golfers around the world would observe a moment of silence and then go right on playing the game they love. They’d hardly notice the professional tours had disappeared. Golf would carry on.”

Those words are as true today as they were 10 years ago.

Golf is also not about the Ryder Cups and Rolex Series tournaments. That’s why, as the most honourable of all sports, we need to be careful about rushing to get the game back on track as if the coronavirus never existed. It’s also why, as club golfers, we need to be careful about clamouring to get back on our fairways as soon as possible.

The PGA Tour is talking about a return in June. Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has talked about staging a Ryder Cup without fans. European captain Padraig Harrington seems to have changed his tune on a fan-less Ryder Cup, saying perhaps the match has to be played behind closed doors this year.

While it’s not the preferred option for many fans, most wouldn’t quibble too much if Europe’s best played America’s best in silence just once. However, and it’s a big however, only if golf isn’t given priority over more vital sectors.

Colin Montgomerie recently said our game shouldn’t be given special treatment.

“They (the PGA Tour) are talking about a million tests over the course of the year,” Monty told The Scotsman.
“If they are going spare, then by all means. But you do feel that somehow those million tests could be used for frontline workers more than for us. Everyone is not getting tested yet, and frontline staff around the world should be tested first before we get anything.”

Monty’s words apply to the Ryder Cup as much as they do to the PGA Tour. No way should testing be done at Whistling Straits in September if it’s not being done on a wide scale for health professionals, care workers, key workers, etc. The Ryder Cup is not that important.

As for calls to get club golfers back on UK fairways as quickly as possible, Parliament’s All-Party Golf Group is calling for just that.

(Serious question: Why does golf need an “All-Party Golf Group?” Surely members of parliament have more important issues to deal with than golf?)

All-Party Golf Group chairman Craig Treacy, the North Warwickshire MP, said:

“The nature of the game means it can, and should, return quickly provided there are steps taken by all involved to maintain social distancing and to meet any other government instruction.”
“Members of Parliament know how valuable golf is to the UK as it has a huge economic impact, employs large numbers across the UK and has significant positive influence on people’s health.”

No disagreement on that last statement. We all want to get back on the fairways, but we need to wait our turn. Like it or not, golf has a perceived elitist image. It won’t be helped if we campaign hard for an early return.

As Peper said all those years ago, golf will always be there. The game will survive this coronavirus nightmare. Let’s not add to our elitist image by insisting we should be at the front of the queue in the race to get back to normal. That won’t do our game any favours whatsoever.

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