What- No Gallery?

PGA Proceeding on Tournaments With No Gallery

 

The latest plans for a PGA Tour seem to be going something like this. Tournaments will continue into the summer, but no gallery will be allowed to watch them play.  If all goes well, the tour could again welcome fans back behind the ropes around July, either by the John Deere Classic, or in the second week at Colonial. I suppose that’s one way of getting it done, but not everyone is happy about the prospect. Naturally, if you’re going to get an earful about such an issue, Brooks Koepka will not be far away. We need never fear the thought of Brooks being a shrinking violet, or ambivalent about much of anything. He speaks of the importance of the energy coming out of the gallery, the fans’ response to the ups and downs of fairway fortune.

I will vote on that right now. in terms of what an audience shares energetically with a performer, Koepka couldn’t be more correct. Ask anyone who does anything on a stage for a living. Out there beyond the footlights, the audience sits in the dark, but musicians, actors, dancers and everyone else feels them out there like one big beast, sending back their response, whatever that might be. They share in the moment, and let you know they are there. Fans have taken part in pushing a good performance into a great one. Take them away, and the sizzle of the moment will fall flat. Make no mistake. Professional golf is played on a stage, albeit an expansive, green grassy one. The gallery can move or deflate a performance in any instance, just like they can at Carnegie Hall.

Consider being in Koepka’s shoes. You’re marching up the 18th fairway, about to win your first, second or third green jacket. It’s been your life’s dream, and when the big moment comes, there is no one there to meet you, no one there to shout over your impending accomplishment, no one to push your zeal for excelling. Of course performers have that zeal already, but a golfer needs a gallery to make it complete. Some feel that way because they love being the object of adoration. Others are completely interior players, and barely notice the existence of a gallery at all. A third group just loves people and golf.

When I began attending pro tournaments of any tour, I was shocked that they would let me get that close to a player.  I have stood three feet from Paula Creamer and Lorena Ochoa on the tee. I have sat by the green as Gary Player and Tom Watson made ready to putt, and I thought “It sure is a good thing I’m not a pathological person – being this close to a crowd would scare me to death”

There are few things I would miss in a gallery. I might miss that person who seems to be everywhere, screaming “Get in the hole!” as Tiger’s club face meets the ball. Can’t he at least watch for just a second or two, then scream it if it really looks like it might go in? “Get in the hole” guy needs to get a life. I wish he’d get it somewhere else. I would certainly not miss the footsy fan that improves the lie for his favorite player or edges the ball behind a bush for his or her rival. There was a famous story of years past when the symphony orchestra played the final note, but one woman was not paying attention. Resounding through the hall was “I fry mine in grease!” Yes, golf has those as well, and worse. Sometimes the “I fry mine in grease”  yell happens on the back swing.

In general, though, the gallery is a place for people who love the game and love you, unless they are rooting for someone else. If they are, they will usually at least pay you the respect of quiet attention. Many of them will still applaud an excellent shot, even if they don’t like the player at all. If golf is the blood of the pro, the gallery can be the spark that sends it flowing. Their reactions serve as a mirror for the way we all watch triumph and tragedy from screams of victory to the worst “Awwwwwww. He missed a three-footer.”

i guess that these tournaments will still be tournaments in the technical sense. but if the one I lead by two strokes eagles the hole next door, and I don’t hear the cheers telling me to do better – well, it’s just a shame. Golf should be quiet and respectful – but never silent.

 

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