Speak freely please – Just not in my back swing. There may be some things holding our game back but silence isn’t one of them.
So Malachy Clerkin’s been watching Happy Gilmore again. In case you missed his trolling efforts on Monday, “‘Quiet please’ for the rapidly accelerating death of golf” proved that not even the Irish Times can stand tall against clickbait. He touched on some good points but rather than nurture them into proposed solutions, he couldn’t help his playful paws from molesting his whole argument. Top of his golfing enemy list – silence… Because that’s something you can’t escape in this life.
“What is golf’s obsession with silence, anyway?” Maybe it’s that the level of concentration required to form a consistent swing with a long metal stick that will in turn send a tiny stationary object through the air on a hopeful mission to avoid numerous preconceived hazards en route to finding a most narrow, unforgiving target isn’t conducive to some boorish lout belching mashed potatoes at me whilst I do it? Personally I thought that Mr Larsen’s behaviour in bending Shooter McGavin’s nine iron in half at the Tour Championship brought the game into disrepute, but Clerkin begs to differ.
“Golf is already easily the worst spectator experience in sport.” Questionable timing considering the weekend’s renewal of the Irish Open was arguably its most successful yet. 40 quid entry may not be cheap but given McIlroy, Rahm and Matsuyama played together for the first two rounds, I’d consider it decent value for a full day’s viewing. I paid more to watch Ireland versus Argentina for 80 minutes on a cold November’s night at Lansdowne Road in 2012. But “Imagine being shushed at a sporting event as a grown adult and being ok with it.” No need. As Sexton lined up his kick 80 meters in the distance I achieved such a shaming that night. It was a reminder I deserved and a game I still enjoyed.
Besides, Ian Poulter and Bubba Watson already engaged in some noise play at the 2012 Ryder Cup ala Gilmore himself. Where the noise is constant however, the distraction doesn’t exist. And what sort of ludramans would want to expend hours of energy screaming at Hideki Matsuyama cleaning his grooves anyway? If Clerkin can’t differentiate that from the impact of a solitary, ignorant yelp at the top of a backswing then he’s lost his place in my all-time dream four-ball. Sorry Malachy.
‘You don’t get it John. Golf’s not special.’ It’s “played by human beings, all of them made of the same venal, flawed scumbaggery as play every other sport on the planet.” Yet it’s that same archaic rule book that Clerkin wants rid of that separates golf from the rest. The deceit, corruption and blatant cheating that has plagued football in recent years doesn’t exist in golf. Our rules are enforced by the participants and show me a finer example than golf for competitors calling foul upon themselves? The rules may be age old and anal but at least they encourage ethical values and honest participation.
Clerkin is correct in saying that numbers are on the decline but there’s greater evils at play than respectful traditions in causing this. Subscription television’s monopoly on golf’s greatest events may fill the pockets of those who need it least but it also deprives new audiences of what the game needs most. Golf has become more affordable in so many ways but without young eyes watching, the ancient establishment will continue running operations with the blinkers on while potential stars look elsewhere for inspiration.
By all means relax dress codes, promote 9-hole competitions and present the golf club as an inviting hub of activity for all the family. But we don’t need to catch two big fat naked bikers having sex in our peripherals when plotting a delicate wedge to achieve it. Golfers need to be afforded the best conditions possible to have a shot at playing well. In our sport, silence is golden. And when they hit that miraculous escape or booming drive as a result, hopefully it will be aired on RTE so that we can all see it.