Feuds, Insults – Golf Has Them, too

Golfers Feisty as Anyone When It Comes to Insults

Underneath the disciplined exterior of the pro golfer is a competitor just as susceptible to feuding as anyone else. That’s a field of up to 50 to 100 on any given week locked in a competition for satisfied egos and precious paychecks. Like anywhere else on earth, there are people who just click, and those who just don’t.

There have been dust-ups since the origin of the game, often consisting of the subtle whispered insults employed as psychological warfare against an opponent. I happens on the muni course as well, particularly with men. Anything is fair game – your clubs, clothes, income, profession, swing…anything. Among a few of the tense moments on tour have been the Seve Ballesteros incident at a Ryder Cup, when Paul Aziner wouldn’t allow the Spaniard to take a scuffed ball out of play. Suddenly, the Zinger started hearing noises during his backswing. Ballesteros shrugged and said “Everyone knows I have allergies.”

John Daly hit two balls into a group playing ahead, one of which was Jeffrey Roth. His father went goofy in the head and jumped on Daley’s back. One can imagine how that worked out. Bear wrestling isn’t usually advisable unless you’re one already. Dave Hill went after J.C. Snead with a club after being crowded on the range. It’s a good reminder that not all sports carry naturally built weapons like golfers do.  When the brain goes caveman, the 1-iron to wedge are just as useful as a spear or – yes “club.” One pro put another on the clock in a tournament. He was pulled out of the cart, punched in the face, and released back to his former seat in an altered state.

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Instances such as these are regrettable, and do the game no good. The jibes on and off the course, on the other hand, can be fun. However, there is always the danger of a false alarm, like the one I ran into when I heard that Justin Thomas told Tiger Woods he was afraid to come back on tour. I didn’t hear him say it, so it’s all second-hand. I didn’t know if it was a joke, and have since learned that the two have a pretty good friendship – so, bullet apparently dodged.

If he had been serious, I was ready to go to war. In the first moment, I couldn’t believe that someone would criticize the manhood and courage of someone who can stand on history’s podium alongside Jack Nicklaus. It’s the sort of thing a new gunfighter calls out to establish a reputation, often a deadly strategy. Yes, I was ready to go to the “Most of Wood’s greatest work was done before you were anybody from anywhere” mode. Fortunately, I dug a little deeper into what turned out to be a friend’s playful insults.

And what about the women’s tour? I’m sure there’s a fair amount of held-back irritation that occasionally finds a voice. I guess Babe Didrikson  could saunter into a room full of colleagues, and leave them all with elevated blood pressure.  With the LPGA folks, it’s often harder to put one’s finger on the irritation and the way in which it is expressed. Some insults I have heard on the women’s tour are so subtle that I have to walk away and think about it for a minute. My mother made it clear to me that there is a rhetorical range  not spoken or heard by the average man searching for something clever to say.

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Well, as the bard would say, “All’s Well That Ends Well.” Justin Thomas did not say the most grossly stupid thing I’ve heard on tour this decade with a straight face. Tiger’s legacy is unsullied, and we’ll all look forward to the Ryder’s Cup when the real  insults will fly again.

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