People Prove Best, Worst of The Game
I am currently in the 57th year of a study of what I like most about the game of golf and, conversely, what I detest most about the game of golf.
You know what? I get the same answer to both queries.
Having played the game since my first round at the late Green Valley Country Club in 1956 and having reported on the game since 1966, when I began working in the sports department for the Fayetteville Observer, I feel that I have seen enough golf played on both the recreational and tournament level to make some observations.
There is no question that golf attracts some of the finest people in the world. The game itself breeds integrity. If I play with a man who abides by the rules of golf, I would trust him to set up a trust fund for my family.
But if I play with a guy who moves his ball in the rough, kicks it out from behind a tree and gains two inches every time he marks his ball, I wouldn't trust him to pick up my garbage.
Play one round of golf with a man and you'll learn more about him than you will during a dozen power lunches.
Since coming to The Pilot in the spring of 1997, I have written about nothing but golf. During that time I've covered the game in the Pinehurst area, including the North and South Amateur Championships, a Club Professional Championship, two U.S. Men's Open, two U.S. Women's Opens (I was still working for the Fayetteville Observer when Pine Needles hosted the 1996 Women's Open), a U.S. Women's Public Links Championship, three LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Championships, a Men's U.S. Amateur, and a U.S. Girls' Amateur.
All those national events have provided pleasure and excitement. And during each of them, I've met outstanding personalities.
But you know what? I've had just as much pleasure covering local tournaments such as the men's and women's Moore County Amateur Championships. And I really enjoy the Tar Heel Cup, which matches the best professionals against the top amateurs in the state. These guys really love the game and the camaraderie.
During the 31 years that I spent covering all sports - particularly Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball - I met a lot of nice people. But I also met some of the biggest jerks in the world, especially in basketball. There are a lot of tales I could tell about superstars such as Bill Walton and Patrick Ewing and Christian Laettner, but this is a golf column.
Only a couple of times during my so-called career have I been "dissed" by a golfer. Most of the players, including the biggest names, are willing to share a moment or give a few quotes if they're approached in the correct manner. I've seen some golfers go off on a reporter, but more often than not I felt the reporter had it coming.
But, like most hackers, the majority of my likes and dislikes have occurred during casual rounds of golf with people I know and associate with on a regular basis.
So, at the risk of offending a couple of guys who may think they recognize themselves, here are a few examples of things that tick me off:
n The three guys who finish putting first just walk off the green and leave the last player to putt to replace the flagstick.
n You hit your tee ball and aren't able to pick up the flight. You ask, "Where did it go?" and three guys chime, "Sorry, I wasn't watching."
n The foursome in front of you is on the fourth hole when your group tees off and you catch them on the sixth hole. You play the rest of the round and they never even notice that you're behind them, waiting on every shot.
n A guy playing his home course where he's been a four-times-a-week golfer for 30 years, steps off the five yards between his ball and the 150-yard marker.
n A member of your foursome who says, "Nice shot," even as your ball is heading for a bunker or the trees.
I love the game and I love the people in it. Most of the time.
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