The golf world was shaken recently when it was revealed that the PGA tournament was scheduled at an all-white club. The controversy has started a campaign to force such clubs to admit minorities.
It's an important barrier to break down, but let me be blunt. I can see minorities battling for the right to good jobs, good pay and good housing. But why would they want to battle for the right to golf?First, it's questionable whether golf is really a sport. Sport traditionally is defined as an aerobic activity; which is to say that at some point you have to breathe hard. You don't do that in golf, except perhaps from hoisting your clubs onto the back of the motorized cart.
Which brings up the biggest irony of all: Why is it that most clubs actually prohibit you from your one shot at exercise - walking - by requiring players to rent carts? I suppose it's the Rosie Ruiz philosophy of athletic exertion.
Not that I look down on it. My favorite aspect of golf, which I attempt about once a year, is driving the cart. I consider the part where you have to swing the clubs at the ball as an unpleasant interruption. This is because I can't do it, or rather am forced to do it too many times. Most golf courses prove they don't understand players like me by printing cards that have space only for single-digit scores for each hole.
I first tried golf rather young, chiefly out of a true respect for a noble game and also because Allen Daniels, my brother and I stumbled on some junked clubs in a garbage can and had nothing else to do that summer. So we began climbing the fence and sneaking onto a nearby course. We were encouraged by adult male foursomes who would come up behind us and say such inspirational things as, "If you're not out of the way by the time we tee up, we'll drive right into you."
We each claimed one club and used it for everything - I drove with a putter. My brother had a driver with a loose head that he tried to tape back on. Often, after a drive, the head would fly farther than the ball.
Our equipment improved a few years later when my father took up golf for the main reason most adults do: a deep love of the outdoors and also that his boss said he should do it to woo customers. There seems to be a theory in business that while an MBA might slightly enhance sales skills, the real way of closing a deal for 500 tons of 99.7 pure aluminum ingots at 5 percent under market is by playing golf. Anyway, we borrowed his clubs. It did not help.
My game still needs work. I've played dozens of times in my life and still remember the high point of my career: the time I got a par.
Of course, I took a Mulligan that hole. That's where you're allowed to discount one bad shot. As kids, we assumed a Mulligan was named after a famous golfer, and we decided we should be allowed at least one Palmer and one Nicklaus as well. I still believe this. Not that it changes much. Real golfers are embarrassed when they admit to a triple bogey. I boast about them.
The main problem is I lack patience. Most golfers take five practice swings, rock back and forth 17 times to get a precise stance, then aim, aim, aim, gradually swing back, head down, and at last follow through. I jump off the cart, swing wildly while still walking and get back on the cart.
I'm sure my game would improve if I played more than once a year, but I can't afford the capital investment. Which is to say that if I don't start with 35 balls, I run out.
I'm getting tired of being given a hard time for that. Now that all white clubs are at last opening up membership, America is due to attack that final bastion of golf discrimination. For all of us once-a-year hackers, I hereby demand scorecards with two-digit numbers for each hole.
Dist. by Scripps Howard News Service