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  • Alistair Tait

How will golf’s “mashed potato” gang survive?

Like everyone else, I’m disappointed the Players Championship has been cancelled. I was looking forward to watching a golf telecast without morons shouting inanities for the sake of being heard.

The idea of a golf tournament without fans has never been so appealing in an age when a few idiots shouting “mashed potato” or “get in the hole” or “bababooey” seems par for the course.

Six-time European Tour winner Tony Johnstone posed this question on Twitter after the PGA Tour finally made the sensible decision to cancel all upcoming tournaments.

“What are the half-witted “mashed potato” and “get in the hole” shouters going to do for a month? Perhaps they’ll go into self-isolation and forget to come out again.”

If only.

As Johnson pointed out, it’s a small minority of er, “fans” who ruin it for everyone else. Most people who go to tournaments are golfers themselves and know all about the game’s etiquette. Johnson said:

“I think the real golfers (fans) are the ones who have respect for the game and go to tournaments to enjoy themselves without making tits of themselves. The fans are indispensable and we would have been out of a job without them. It’s the 1% of selfish loudmouths who reduce the pleasure.”

Spot on.

I’ve taken to hitting the mute button lately while watching golf telecasts. I’ve just about had enough of the utter inanities from some fans who obviously think going to a golf tournament is all about getting drunk and shouting.

I watched most of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with the mute button in operation. I turned the sound on near the end of the round to hear some idiot mock Tyrrell Hatton for misreading a putt on the 17th green. The look on Mick Donaghy’s face said it all. The experienced Scottish caddie wasn’t impressed. In fact, knowing Mick, he probably had to restrain himself from walking over to the fan and tearing a strip off him.

Some idiots get close to the mark. A fan appeared to shout at the top of Tommy Fleetwood’s backswing as he played his second shot to the 72nd green while trying to win the Honda Classic. Fleetwood’s ball found the water.

Ian Poulter was quick to lambast the so-called fan.

“Get in the hole” Huge shout a little early... So disrespectful but it happens often. We wouldn’t shout in someone’s office whilst they were on a conference call. We all want the fans to be loud and have fun but with a little respect.”

Poulter knows all about fans shouting at him. The Man known as “Mr Ryder Cup” gets his fair share of abuse.

Lest you think I’m picking on just a minority of American golf fans, I’m not. I walked all 18 holes of the final round of the 2014 Open Championship as Rory McIlroy claimed his first old claret jug. I was appalled at the behaviour of a small group of fans. So was Rory.

Here’s what I wrote in my Golfweek game story.

“It wasn’t just the Hoylake grass that was lush, that adjective could easily be applied to an ugly portion of the gallery that followed McIlroy and Rickie Fowler when they teed off at 2:40pm in the final round. Some of the local lads were suitably oiled by that time, and displaying the sort of behaviour that spoils football games.”
“McIlroy was heckled at the par-5, fifth hole and glared in the direction of the gallery to the right of the green. Fowler received the same treatment on the par-3, sixth and had to back off his par putt. Six members of the Merseyside Police were walking with the final group by the time the pair reached the 9thhole. Several times the local Bobbies had to have “words” with drunken spectators. It came to a head when a heckler was ejected after disturbing Rory’s drive on the 16th hole.”

I heard American players being booed by at Le Golf National in 2018. It obviously wasn’t by a majority of fans, but it happened. Two years earlier even American golf writers were appalled by the behaviour of drunken fans as the United States won the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. I seem to remember one American journalist apologising to the European team in the post-match press conference.

I also wrote this following Hoylake:

“The majority of the crowd was well behaved, but this Open Championship Sunday verged on ugly at times. We expect polite applause at the Open Championship, not the raucous behaviour that spilled out of some members of the gallery on Sunday. The R&A might have to rethink its beer sales policy next time the Open Championship returns to Hoylake.”

Other tournament organisers should perhaps rethink their beer sales policy too.

Henry Longhurst once wrote:

“All over the world golfers talk the same language – much of it nonsense and much unprintable.”

Not much has changed since Henry’s day for a small band of morons.

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