Type “A” Golf
As most people who pay any attention to the modern course of human events know, it’s election year in the United States, and that the process tends to bring out some colorful personalities and unusual threads of logic…and/or the opposite. This time around, we’ve got some real doozies flooding the airwaves, and the most recent analysis of the most unusual one seems to center around the question of whether he’s a bully. Those who knew Donald Trump way back when say that he loves to fight, and always has – any kind of fight you want to pick.
I will leave the political end of the discussion for others, but seeing that Trump is an avid golfer, a buyer, developer and refurbisher of golf courses and their adjoining resorts, the relationship of an “Agree with me or get out of my way” approach to the game of golf, a pretty good bully itself, makes for an interesting dynamic. We have seen the greatest of the greats, on a good week, grab the game by the lapels and bend it to their will, but only through sheer force of skill and a good late week biorhythm. But, I have never seen anyone do it through sheer force of will, skill being absent.
It seems to be working all right in the campaign, all things considered, but I’ve never felt that I, or anyone else, could score on a golf course by blustering, threatening, or insulting.. Likewise, I’ve never met a person who would respond well to me under such conditions. In golf terms, such aggressive behavior might translate to belting a driver on a paper-thin fairway, going for the pin surrounded by water, bunkers, and dragons, and charging every putt no matter the consequences – and all the while feeling that you deserve to hole out just because you are who you are. Over-swinging drivers, daring club selection, and going for the home run on the green are all better put in the hands of great golfers. For the rest of us, a score can balloon into a 14 in the blink of an eye. The difference between “I deserve this – give it to me!” and “I’ve practiced hard and I’m really good at this” is vast. Super aggressive course management based on presumed merit translates into personal qualities expressed by a breakdown of discipline that can make it all go worse and worse again. When bluster comes out of the bag, concentration takes a vacation, and golf balls go into the water, corn field, or next county. Far better to court a game of golf, for in the world of “pick on someone your own size,” the game is always bigger.
Donald Trump has done the bully thing with great success in some circles. They say that he bullied a Scottish community to give up a conversation-minded stretch of coastland for one of his projects, and PGA sponsors are having trouble keeping their events on Trump courses, considering the present atmosphere. I remain convinced that to be a bully within the industry is one thing, but to try it with the game is quite another.
I won a match against a textbook bully when I was a kid. He was the better golfer, and possessed twice the muscle, but his flashy, Tarzanic course management and wild overswing designed to show me who’s boss had him in trouble all day. When he finally lost, he left a putter buried a foot or more deep in the green, and I had to surround myself with protecting peers until he was escorted off of the course.
People can sometimes be bowled over in this way, but golf? Never. Better a shotmaker than a bully, and a little “Yes Ma’am” or “Yes Sir” is always a good idea when addressing a game with so much muscle – even if you think you ought to be President.