An Apology (of sorts) to Thomas Pieters

From All Those Horrible Americans to Thomas Pieters

I have to admit it, we Americans are a handful. Not only are we overly self-expressed at moments in which a little restraint might be a nice idea, but some of us move about the country and the world with an undeserved swagger. Sometimes we mistake a golf moment for a hockey moment. When I served as the American judge for an international event held in Italy, the French judge leaned over at the oddest time and informed me that he thought I would be obese and annoyingly loud, and was I absolutely certain of my American citizenship. I once stood at the high altar of Canterbury Cathedral, only to see one of my countrymen stride into the spot next to me and light up a cigar. I have been reprimanded for simply existing by members of several European countries, including a Belgian policeman. But, the British are the best scolders. They can somehow make your very name sound vulgar with that mastery of inflection. When I was roasted by a Frenchman in Italy not yet having said a single word, my Italian friend leaned in and said, “Its all right, they don’t like us, either.” But back to the point. Our politics are…well, you’ve got me there, Mr Pieters. I don’t know what to tell you. You came to this country as a college kid, and they’re even more self-expressed than the rest of us. The me of now wouldn’t want to give the me of then the time of day. You probably wouldn’t want to, either. In our defense, I can only make a note that there are still almost 300 million of us that you have not met.  Some of us are enjoyable people, and not just because we’re too old to swear off being self-expressed.

I went through this with Paul Casey as well, the “all” Americans are “this and that” thing. Eventually, our feathers got smoothed over, and I have even rooted for him in a tournament or two in the years since. In your case, I initially swelled with rhetorical venom, preparing to launch a series of equally and ridiculously generalized anti-European barbs, but I caught myself in time. In part, it was because I remembered how good Europe has been to me, secondly because I am married to an Austrian, and thirdly because I read an article entitled My Story, penned by Thomas Pieters. It was well done, insightful and honest about the ups and downs along the way in trying to establish a successful golf career. I read of the sequence of victories along the way that led you to an NCAA win over Jordan Spieth, which as we say in this over-expressed country, “ain’t chopped liver.” You won on consecutive weeks in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, finished fourth in the Olympics, and excelled in the Ryder Cup. You have game, and I suspect we will soon see it turn into wins here in the west, if we can clear out a little breathing space among all the over-expressed residents.

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The club-breaking thing is your deal, but it strikes me about the same as American Ryder Cup players standing around the way they would at a bar at 2:00 am while someone’s trying to putt. It just doesn’t seem fair that the kids who broke clubs and threw tantrums at the muni were removed from the course. The ones who broke other peoples’ irons were asked never to return. I guess Americans aren’t the only golf people who are self-expressed. You can call it “honesty” while others might call it, “incapable of self-control,” or “immaturity.” I’ll leave that to them and you, but there’s no point in calling Americans rude while you’re doing that. It’s apparently good for the TV ratings. That’s why John McEnroe and you have and will survive it without incident. But individualistic as I like to be, I know that we don’t bend the game to ourselves. We bend ourselves to the larger scope, history, and tradition of the game. Even with the greatest who have come before, the game was still bigger. Nicklaus did it, Pieters can do it.

I look forward to finding good reason to cheer for you from my recliner some day, something past the game of golf. I realize that won’t mean a hill of beans to you, but it might in the case of someone closer to you. In the meantime, keep the putter safe from your temperament. I tried putting with a 2-iron once. It was too long, and I looked silly. For me, there was a fine line between honesty and silliness. We all have to find out where it is.

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