PGA Kicks Off During Social Crisis

Varner Says PGA Players Will Have “Conversations”

As everyone is aware, the United States is going through a  serious “thing.” It has gone through it before, and may again. It’s a tough thing to go through when everyone has been cooped up for a month by a global virus, but there you have it. Amidst the conflict, the PGA is trying to get back on track with the Charles Schwab just around the bend.

Harold Varner III cautions us that there will be “conversations” between the players, which is not such a bad thing, at least I don’t think it is. The game we grew up with is socially sophisticated, so we probably don’t expect any huge erosion of decorum. On the other hand, the field comes from all sorts of places with all sorts of world views. Those law-abiding golfers maintain a certain level of behavior because that’s the way the game is played – and when the putt is addressed, whatever Lower Slobovia and Lichtenstein are arguing about is not the topic of the moment. However, make no mistake – they are opinionated.

In the history of golf, the African American presence found its way into the game through honest competition despite stiff resistance. However, even then the ethnic  numbers remained low. Eventually, barriers gave way. The point is that a mass demonstration was not relevant to getting into the field  of a golf tournament. It was a personal struggle for each individual. Membership barriers and certain instances of barbaric behavior popped up, but the black PGA players put their heads down and concentrated on playing even better golf. For those who found the black presence problematic these players won their way into golf’s heart as well,  With the emergence of Tiger Woods, the deal was done. The question of multi-racial sport, at least on the golf course, could no longer be disputed.  He did it by being the best player on the planet, nearly all the time.  No  stereotype  could  stand  up  to  that.

The Hispanic presence on the PGA was also well-represented half a century ago. Lee Trevino won a lot and contended a lot. There was no getting rid of a guy like that, and who would want to? He was magic for the tour. Proponents of an all-white game couldn’t successfully insult him. That quick mind of his could tear a detractor to ribbons, quickly as you could say Robin Williams. Chi-Chi Rodriguez didn’t win quite as often as Trevino did, but shared that unforgettable charm. From that era through Lorena Ochoa and Lizette Salas, these golfers from Cuba, Mexico, the U.S. and others from South America have become among the most lovable and respected figures to play the northern courses before an audience.

Golf helped make this happen while politicians and governments did not. In time, golf went global while political parties and old world activists kept kicking up the same old dust. When an increasing number of Asians and Asian-Americans joined the tours, in particular the LPGA, they brought a talent level and earnestness that was hard to beat.  I recall some frustration with some players not able to speak English yet, but haven’t heard about it for a long time. Only players of that time could tell the real story about behind-the-scenes dynamics, and only Harold Varner III could tell us if he has any uneasiness about these conversations that have already started. In both the PGA and LPGA, there are personality types that speak right up, and others that don’t.

The fact is that the game of golf is a great place for the sweetening of relations, with less residue of ancient racial struggles and more residue of what your coach tried to get you to remember this week. A lot of people worked hard to bring us that scenario.  At its best, the game is a showcase of how members of the world community can interact professionally at a high level. Again, only players know the backstories, but I have confidence that the now global game can rise above just about anything, and not give in to stupidity. As for what is happening out in the world, we can only hope that every element of the nation brings its  best in orde to do the right thing,and  that  the  right  thing  becomes  the  result.

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