The Right Message … At The Right Time … In The Right Way



Note:  I had fun with this op-ed which is inspired by European grumbling over the  “rowdy, rambunctious and spirited conduct” of members of the 1999 American Ryder Cup team and the fans supporting its play at the Brookline Country Club.

AS YOU WERE SAYING . . . Golf etiquette should land in the rough every so often

By Ross A. Muscato – October 2, 1999

First off, let me confess that through the years I have not been much of a golf fan. Most of my friends love the game, as either participants or spectators.

But golf never got me that excited. It just seemed so boring.

However, my indifference toward golf changed last Sunday as I watched televised coverage of the final day of the Ryder Cup. It was a transformation borne of a few elements: team competition that pitted the United States against Europe; a historic and gutsy comeback; a beautiful course; and, maybe the most significant element, the rowdy, rambunctious and spirited conduct of players and spectators – known as good old American enthusiasm.

Yes, you read it correctly – I thought most of the yelling and screaming and dancing around was great. Golf etiquette be damned. Heck, I don’t even mind a little bit of heckling here and there – I emphasize a bit – from the gallery. As long as the guys playing are professionals, then they should just suck it up and play under the pressure that professional hockey, football, basketball and baseball players must play under. That’s part of the excitement – that’s part of sport.

Ted Williams used to say how bizarre that a golfer could expect absolute silence from the spectators while he endeavored, without intervention from an opponent, to hit a stationary ball – yet a batter in baseball could just as fairly expect the fans to be engaged in a deafening rant as he tried to make contact with a sphere traveling at of over 90 mph thrown by an adversary just 60 feet away.

OK, I will agree that any celebrations that hold up a putt or a drive are unsportsmanlike but everyone should just chill out about the dancing and screeching and hugs that don’t prevent an opponent from going about his business. American team member Tom Lehman nicely described the balance between acceptable and unacceptable enthusiasm when he said, concerning the mild melee that followed Justin Leonard dropping that monster 45-foot putt on the 17th hole: “There was never ill intent on anyone’s part. In retrospect, I wish we all had jumped up and down in place rather than on the side of the green. But I’m not going to apologize for being excited.”

As far as I’m concerned, what took place Sunday in Brookline was the best thing to happen to golf since, well, Tiger Woods.

And it’s no accident that golf was experienced something of a revolution here. You see, like politics and revenge, sports is an institution in which Bostonians revel, scrutinize and cultivate with a passion that you just don’t find in other places. Let’s remember, this is the town that prodded 13 colonies into a bloody battle for independence against, yes, a European power. Revolution and fireworks are in the blood of this region. And sniveling from those who hail from the other side of the pond has never gone over well in these parts.

Now I am not advocating that major golf tournaments devolve into something akin to a Miami Hurricane end zone celebration, or, even worse, a present-day English soccer match. But a little rah-rah, adrenaline and chest-thumping by fans and players can only make the sport more interesting.

Former [London] Telegraph editor W.F. Deedes showed a healthy perspective on the matter when he wrote: “I found myself feeling faintly jealous of America’s capacity for emotion. We shrug our shoulders a lot. They really care. They want to win. They hate to lose. And this carries them beyond a golf game at Brookline.”

Who knows, perhaps Deedes thinks that golf may in some way be enriched by its intersection with the events of this past week in Brookline. I know I sure do.

Ross A. Muscato is a writer and public relations consultant who lives in Jamaica Plain.


Written by RM

September 2, 2009 at 12:49 am

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