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Dec 20

Smoking and Modern Golf

 

Smoking on the Golf Course – No Longer Cool

 
 

Once upon a time, it was all part of the insatiable Western desire to look good. Clark Gable could offer Claudette Colbert or Marilyn Monroe a cigarette whenever he wanted to. It was expected of him, part of the charm.
smoking 2 Likewise, Arnie or anyone on the same tour could light up on either tee or green, and we didn’t even flinch. Contrary to public opinion, we knew the stuff was bad for us a long time before we were really discouraged from partaking in public. Part of the problem was that guys like Gable and Arnie looked so good that we could put off the truth about what it does to us. Arnie looked like a stand-in for the next Michelangelo project, and hey, if he looks that good smoking, why shouldn’t I give it a whirl? And he was far from alone.

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The golf course, at the peak of its good-old-boy days, served as nature’s smoking room, where business was conducted and where men went to act like men, sometimes to the detriment of mankind. Refined for the public view, maybe, but professional golfers did and still do all the same things other humans do, and the smoking thing goes for the women as well.

smoke 1 Despite not being a good idea, it’s easy to see why the habit prospers. Smoking and smokers gather wherever tension runs high, even if the habit is absolutely contrary to physical effort. Where are some of those places? Try the corps in many ballet companies, and check a lot of leading team sports. And remember the old debate about whether golf is a sport or a game. In the last two generations, we’ve had Gary Player and Tiger Woods – these men are athlete golfers. Then there’s a bunch of Pillsbury doughboys who couldn’t run to the other end of the house, but still win tournaments – these are players. Angel Cabrera, for example. Pat Bradley sustained her “tough girl” game face using the old cig prop (although she seemed as if she could run to the end of the house, and then some) and there’s still some puffing going on behind the hedge on the other side of the chipping green.

The tradition of smoking cigars still lives, but more often than not, we see that around Augusta, where propping up smelly old traditions is considered chic in general. PGA or LPGA, we’re still buying the same line – but they look so good – it couldn’t be all that bad. Besides, Arnie’s still kickin’- they all must be exaggerating, even though we know perfectly well that they’re not.


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Of course, Robert Garrigus took it to a whole other level by admitting he smoked pot on the Nationwide
Tour. That’s a little different – how are you going to mix  a fine motor control sport (or game) requiring concentration and good judgment with that stuff? One answer is that you’re not. Garrigus hasn’t exactly set the tour on fire (forgive the reference) lately.

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I remember hearing a talk by a famous female surgeon some years back. She was very professional, very articulate and very informative, talking about how to help men live longer, but she didn’t let the women off the hook, either. After this brilliant, Princetonian talk, she suddenly blurted out, “A woman who smokes is throwing away her biological aces– a man who smokes is a horse’s ass.”

A hard-core addiction, no matter what it is, is often harder to kick than the people who don’t have it could possibly imagine, but maybe keeping it off the course would offer some players a window of opportunity to start stopping.

Regardless, Angel and fellow old-schoolers, it’s time to move on from the Jurassic. And ladies, you worked hard this past century to gain a lot of rights. Stay around to enjoy them a little longer – just sayin’. Whatever tour you play for, don’t throw away any of your high cards or risk being a you know what.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.