Talking golf with someone who is decidedly not into the sport is like trying to argue evolution with an infant. The blank stare, the polite expression, how easily distracted they are by ANYTHING outside of the conversation…and lucky me, my love of the links is an anomaly in my social groups.
There are a few notable exceptions – my roommate and a few coworkers are totally into both watching and playing, but for the most part I might as well be talking about the process of bottling Canadian maple syrup. No one cares and they’re only listening because they made the mistake of asking “How was your weekend?” after a particularly interesting tournament.
I’m not your average female to begin with – I love sports. Golf obviously takes the top spot, but hockey and football round out the top three without much distance to spare. Even baseball, as tedious as a TV broadcast can be, is one of my favorite sports to watch live and I keep up with the Chicago Cubs via highlights and updates.
But what I don’t understand is how even though the Bears look like a pee-wee football team at best this season, there’s no shortage of conversation. Fantasy teams, trade talks, bad calls, highlights…everyone wants to talk about them ALL THE TIME. But when I bring up Jordan Spieth, the reaction is usually “Who?” or “You mean the kid with the hair?” One of the most marketable athletes in the world is nothing more than a cautionary tale about wearing ballcaps too often, while Jay Cutler, AKA King of the Bitch Face, is revered and debated week over week?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll talk non-golf sports all day – I watch too much football, damn near every Blackhawks game, and even non-favorites like basketball and soccer if it’s a title tournament. There’s no shortage of topics in my arsenal thanks to a genuine love of the games and a steady stream of updates from ESPN on my phone.
But where are all the golf fans? How are courses booked solid any day the temperature reaches 60 degrees, but I can’t find another human to hate on Dustin Johnson with me?
I think I’ve figured it out – most people watch sports and don’t play them…while golf is the complete opposite. Playing the sport is arguably more of a draw than watching it, even though the sport is notoriously frustrating at all skill levels. I bet I could walk into my nearest golf club and ask the first golfer I see what major Jason Dufner has won and I’d likely get a very convincing Dumb and Dumber impression.
Adding to the aggravation, I’m even more of a unicorn in that I rarely play the sport but you can bet money on the fact that Golf Channel is streaming on at least one screen in my house at any given moment. I love the driving range and par-3s, but if I never become a Sunday golfer, I’m not going to consider myself any less of a fan.
Think about it: I don’t play hockey, but I’m a huge Blackhawks fan. I don’t play football, but I can name the entire coaching staff and offensive line of the Bears. I played softball when I was a child, but that doesn’t factor into my Cubs fanaticism. I don’t need to be a scratch golfer to be part of the golf world.
I could get over the lack of PGA lovers if it weren’t for the hypocrisy. I don’t judge the people who play but don’t watch – I get it. Teeing up has its own unique entertainment value. The mechanics are infuriating, which makes it perfect for type-A personalities since we’ll never master it. It’s its own form of stress relief because it refocuses all of your stress.
But the people who play are constantly pulling the holier-than-thou card on me, acting as though I’m not really into golf because I’ve found other ways to spend my weekend afternoons.
They hear I’m a fan and the conversation undoubtedly goes like this:
Bullshit Bandit: Oh, you love golf? What’s your handicap?
Me: Oh, I don’t play enough to have an index.
Bullshit Bandit: Then how do you call yourself a golfer?
Me: I didn’t. I said I love golf. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Bullshit Bandit: *sneers* So it’s too hard for you.
Me: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not good at it, but that’s certainly not the deterrent. People with no tolerance for beginners is the deterrent.
Bullshit Bandit: …So, did you watch the Bears this weekend?
Yet when I ask them who they think will win the upcoming PGA tournament, they laugh it off like pro golfers are merely a side effect of the amateur game.
That’s cool, bro, but without Rory McIlroy toting that new blue and yellow Nike driver around, your last season Vapor club wouldn’t be on the pre-owned rack. Without Tiger Woods, most of your golf buddies would have never picked up a club in the first place. Without the OG pro golfers, the “gentleman’s game” wouldn’t be an acceptable way to spend that business meeting with your potential client.
I was recently told that “pro golf is boring to watch, and pro golfers are spoiled brats” by a man toting brand new Titleist clubs out of the PGA Superstore. And this was after that same man asked me if I knew the difference between a putter and an iron. There isn’t a grain of salt in the galaxy large enough with which to take his opinion, but there it was, out there for the world to hear.
Moral of the story: golf fan ≠ golfer. If you’re a golfer, by all means, tell me your story about how your cousin drove the cart over your boss’s foot last weekend. As a golf fan, I can speak just as fondly of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler in traditional Chinese garb hitting drums at the HSBC. But don’t assume that a golfer is the same as a golf fan or vice versa, because more than likely you’ll be wrong. But it’ll make for some (predictable, insulting and) lively conversation.
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