Oct 03

Stacy Lewis and China


Stacy Lewis and China – One Year Later


I can’t tell if anything has changed in Chinese golf with one year in which to mature, but Stacy Lewis has been proactive in whatever she feels is lacking in the golfing environment there – she’s taken the lead, and isn’t giving it back.

lewis 1 Lewis made waves last year with Twitters about how she and other foreign golfers were treated on the course, and suggested that Chinese fans, either ignorant or dismissive of golf’s social history in the West, took on a bit of a mob mentality, complete with phones and cameras, cheers and jeers as if at a rugby match. Understandably, of course, they were rooting for Shanshan Feng, and a little national intoxication with their star was not out of line.

Lewis was labeled a whiner, but the person who at least tells it as she thinks it is, is not the whiner. Some sportswriters have expressed confidence as well, that as China gets the hang of it, they will adapt in some way to Western etiquette surrounding professional tournaments – I doubt it, and why should they? They’re China, not some simpering little track of land trying to emulate Europe and the North American continent.
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Besides, even if the Asian golf market tries emulate the social norms of the West, what norms are they going to mimic, since the West is losing its old norms of etiquette, probably never to be seen again?

Golf cannot stem the tide of the new century’s self-expressed quality. There have always been rivalries, and there have always been players who hated one another, passionately. It’s just that now, we say so, through a media many times larger than that of Bobby Jones or Ben Hogan. Phil goes ape on Tom, Tom fights back, Fowler takes a quirky haircut to the UK, and to some journalists, it’s the end of Western civilization. Lewis takes to the airwaves to convey her impressions of what happened on the maiden voyage of Chinese golf, and she’s a whiner. Did any of us think that a major power int he world wouldn’t take a nationalistic view of victory and defeat in the first major tournament in their country?

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I first noticed the move toward modern, open and unfiltered criticism in the tennis world of McEnroe. He ruined the niceties, and at the time, I detested him for it. Golf soon followed, after the Big Three and that era’s “nobility,” despite the obvious rivalries between them. Now, in terms of etiquette, thanks to the Tiger era, golf is no longer as gracious, and probably never will be. Yesterday, I saw a taunting penalty ruin the game and season for a highly-ranked football team. On the same day, I saw a taunting shimmy dance when a tournament player sank a putt, and the golf establishment thought it was cute. Maybe we’re the hard-nosed game after all.

Lewis is still ranked as the number one in the world, although I don’t know exactly how that works, since she hasn’t won anything for a while. But she is, and to take the tournament in China by the throat on the scoreboard is the perfect solution for handling crowds with no sense of restraint. With two days to go, anything could happen, including a resurgence of Shanshan Feng, but Lewis’ two 68s are the perfect way to silence the crowd by making their sentiments irrelevant, just like going into an opponent’s home stadium and scoring the first twenty-eight points.

lewis 2I’m so glad that I don’t have what it takes to be a pro golfer. For me, there is a universe in that space before the backswing, to the follow-through, with a golden moment in the middle. For most of us, no cameras, cheering, jeering, twittering…and no one cares whether we whine or not. As for Stacy Lewis, win or lose, she’ll be all right – she’s strong inside, and coming out with her impressions of the moment are no worse (and a lot quieter) than an overseas gallery who can’t contain itself. I’ll miss the old ways, but they’re definitely gone.

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