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Monday, January 25, 2021

Golf needs a mulligan but life doesn’t work that way

I remember a time when the term ‘PC gone mad’ referred to a computer monitor on the fritz. A time when Donald Trump fired people for entertainment purposes only, and when Fairytale of New York was played as originally written on Christmas radio. Well folks, unless you’re ramping up your DeLorean to 88mph, I hate to break it to you, but that time is not today.

To put it bluntly, last week was a dreadful one for golf. There was the Golf Channel’s graphic, listing Golf’s Biggest Events of 2021; an eight tournament all male line-up, highlighting what we already knew about the gender imbalance in golf, but still somehow surprising given this graphic would’ve been the brainchild of a team of creators, designed and edited and discussed at various production meetings before someone pushed the button without spotting the fact that it would insult half the population. To their credit, the Golf Channel has since issued a Men’s Golf Super Season graphic and a Women’s equivalent, but why not do it in the first place?

In other news, there was the small matter of a coup on the United States Capitol, incited by President Trump’s repeated and unfounded allegations of election fraud. I’d love to agree that sport and politics shouldn’t mix but Trump and golf are inextricably linked so it warrants reporting. He’s a friend of many inside the ropes, not least golf’s greatest champion, Jack Nicklaus, who lost a bundle of fans when he endorsed Trump, stating among other things that Trump ‘had been more diverse than any President he had seen’.

I wonder what Nicklaus was thinking when an army of Trump’s white patriots stormed the US Congress last week, one woman dying, all in the name of Trump’s inability to accept his election defeat? Perhaps it was something similar to what Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam were thinking. The pair accepted a Presidential Medal of Freedom just two days after Trump’s fanatics in their Halloween costumes made a show of themselves to the world.

Unsurprisingly, golf has since belatedly moved to distance itself from Trump. The PGA of America has stripped the POTUS of hosting his first men’s major at Trump Bedminster, though only because it would be ‘detrimental to their brand’. The R&A followed suit with Martin Slumbers all but confirming that Turnberry wouldn’t host an Open with Trump at the helm. He said: “We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances.”

And just when you thought golf’s image couldn’t get dragged through the mud any further, Justin Thomas goes and utters a six letter homophobic slur after ramming a putt past the hole on Saturday in Hawaii. JT’s reaction in isolation is disappointing but for me, it’s forgivable. We’ve all said things in frustration that we regret. I spent six years in an all-boys’ school thinking certain things were OK but as time goes on and you meet more people, you come around to different ways of thinking, or at least most of us do.

The most disappointing fall-out of this for me wasn’t what JT said but how it’s being defended. For some, what he said doesn’t warrant an apology. ‘It’s PC culture gone mad; ya can’t even call yourself a harmless word these days and get away with it.’

But it’s not PC gone mad. PC gone mad is when a blackboard is renamed a chalkboard in case someone takes offence. Or when you can’t say Christmas holidays, you have to say Winter holidays to be inclusive of all belief systems, or when Trinity College announced they were going to drop the term ‘freshman’ because a lot of their students were women.

On the other hand, the word JT used is a word that has been weaponised against gay people for generations, uttered to bully, belittle and shame. Of course that wasn’t Thomas’ intent but there are enough curse words out there to self-deprecate without reaching for that one.

Last week highlighted just how far apart people are when it comes to issues of social justice, and just how far golf has to go to be the all-inclusive sport it professes to be.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Agree with everything. Let us hope that JT can reflect on his outburst, even if private it suggests an inherent casual homophobic attitude.

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