Golf is a beautiful mirage. Fans hold its morals and etiquette high above every other sport on a noble pedestal. It’s so very gentlemanly, you see. They wear nice pants and polo shirts and a clean white glove on one hand. They stride the course heads high, holding nothing. They don’t hold their clubs, the caddies hold the clubs. Can’t have those golfers carrying their own clubs, of course. That wouldn’t be very noble.
And nothing exemplifies this more than the Masters.
There’s no need for me to introduce the Masters – it’s the king of the golfing world. You win the Masters and you take home a million-dollar purse, immense honor, seeing your name splashed across Sports Illustrated in the next issue and, of course, donning one of the ultimate trophies in sports: the green jacket.
That’s just the outside. Viewers see the pressed pants, the tucked in shirts, the caddies in clean white jumpsuits, the beautifully-manicured course.
But it’s all a disgusting farce.
Golf is so fantastic because as an individual sport, it’s almost like a microcosm of life. Alone in nature, there are little to no distractions, optimally. You need not judge your ability but only by the benchmarks you hold yourself. Hole by hole, you take upon yourself the goal of getting a tiny ball in a hole in the ground. If you make mistakes, you deal with them and plod onward. Frustration mounts often for players because even masterful skill can easily mean little with just a slight sudden gust of wind. Understandably, emotions can run high.
That is, unless you’re on the PGA Tour playing in the Masters.
On Friday, Tiger Woods shanked a tee shot into a sand trap. Immediately upon seeing his shot heading off-course, he dropped his club to the ground and kicked it.
Within hours I saw an article about his actions, calling them “the equivalent of wiping your nose on the green jacket.”
The sport prides itself on eschewing these types of emotional reactions. They’re not elegant. It’s disgraceful to the game, the champions of the sport say. People love seeing the raw emotion of the victor in their moment of glory. But they can’t bear to see the other end of the spectrum: the frustration that the athletes endure at the highest level of competition in their sport at its most visible event.
To call such actions dishonoring the game is laughable, especially during the Masters at Augusta. Augusta National is a place where women can’t be members in 2012. A place where African-Americans couldn’t become members until 1990. A place where a female journalist was refused entrance to the locker room for an interview in 2011. A place where a founding member said “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.”
But they hold this honor of the game high above everyone’s heads as the objective for every person regardless of how well they’re playing. It’s a disgrace that players must abide by stoicism lest they be shunned as a dishonorable athlete.
We loved Michael for leaving everything inside him in the basketball court. We loved the moment he collapsed under the sheer weight of his emotions after he won the 1996 NBA Championship on Father’s Day, his first title since his father’s death. We loved the moments he fought his toughest opponents, win or lose. We loved the moments he barked trash talk and bantered with those brave enough to return fire. We hated to see him fall, but loved it because we knew he’d rise from it. To deny us the passion of frustrating losses is to deny us the captivating emotion of defeating it.
But maybe basketball’s not the honorable sport that golf is.
I couldn’t care less about that. The nobility is a farce, elitism in the sports world at its worst. Show humanity in the thick of your passion and unless it’s utter joy, you’re shaming the game and so you must be shamed, as well. They’ll call it immaturity, but if maturity means swallowing your frustration, then I know zero mature people.
And everyone seems to just accept this.
I guess I should be shamed, too. I don’t play much anymore, but I grew up playing it. At golf, I was decent. At swearing, I was superb. Yet I loved it. It’s just you and the course. You go through the journey of your emotions, frustrations and elations and come out with an experience that makes you feel like you accomplished something. Refusing to even accept expressing yourself during a game because of dishonoring the sport is stressing dated traditions over humanity.
Ah, just another year of hypocrisy at the Masters.