Monday, September 22, 2008



I used to love to watch golf tournaments on television. Remember, back in the days when golfers were pretty much "regular" people? Not like today, when golf is work rather than play, and the golfers are automatons, playing for profit and corporate sponsors, rather than simply the joy of a game at which they could also make a living.

The thing that got me thinking about the way professional golf has changed was watching the Ryder Cup over the weekend. At one point, Serge Garcia made a difficult putt, and let out a fist-pumping whoop. The announcers were astonished. One of them said, "We've never seen anything like that before." And, I thought, "How sad".

How sad that the announcer hadn't been around in the glory days of Arnie's Army, "Champagne" Tony Lima, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Lee Trevino, and others, such as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Watching them play was like going to your local golf course, and watching friends having fun. They were serious about the game, while keeping in mind that it was, after all, still a game.

Arnold Palmer had his "army" of fans, Tony Lima celebrated with champagne after winning a hole. Lee Trevino was always ready with a funny quip. And, Chi Chi Rodriguez brandished his putter like a sword after a good putt.

The weren't the only colorful characters on the golf tour. Another, whose name I can't remember, told reporters that he punished whichever golf club he felt had let him down that day by tying it onto a door handle of his car, and letting it bounce home.

Even the spectators were different back then. No one in Arnie's Army wuold have been disrespectful enough to bray "You da man!" in the middle of Arnie's tee shot. They moved quietly from hole to hole, and applauded politely after a difficult shot or long putt was successful. They weren't self-absorbed like the fans of today, thinking that everything is all about THEM.

Here at home, we had our own golf clowns in a foursome of men who had been playing golf together at every opportunity for a good twenty years, by the time I met them.

They had a little ritual that they performed on the first tee that set the tone for their foursome, and would today be banned and considered racist, but back then, it was just funny in its absurdity. All four of the men would tee up simuntaneously, and sing the following:

"Oh, we're from Nairobi,
Our team is a fine team,
We play the Watusi,
They're seven feet tall.
The Watusi may eat us,
But, they'll never defeat us,
"Cause we're from Nairobi,
And we're on the ball."

"Umgawa, Umgawa, Umgawa, Umgawa,

Umgawa, Umgawa, Umgawa-wah-WAH.!"

Then, all four would hit their drivers simultaneously, and the game was on. It was just a bit of silliness and probably, in retrospect, shouldn't have seemed funny, and wouldn't be funny today. But, if those four men were still around today, I like to think they would come up with a more politically correct ritual before teeing off.

Anyway, I still enjoy a good golf tournament, but sure do miss all the fun of those long-ago characters. There may be a few colorful golfers out there today, like Arkansas' own John Daly, but they seem to be few and far between. And I think the game of golf suffers for it.


kenju said...

Betty, you are so right about this and mr. kenju says the same thing about basketball. I am sure it is the same in other sports as well. Not many people have or show class anymore, although I think Tiger does well at that.

Margie's Musings said...

I think all the sports have been spoiled by the big money. Most sport's players make more money then the president of the United States.

That's a tragedy that ruins the game for many.

Bear Naked said...

Maybe this is the reason why I enjoy watching Canadian football.
They don't make the money that American players make but they play the game with their hearts as well as with their brawn.

Bear((( )))

Mari Meehan said...

Oh! Betty! How I needed that!

Anonymous said...


A hundred years ago, 50 white men chasing a black man across a field was called the Klu Klux Klan.

Today it is called the PGA tour!

Richard said...

Well said, though I am enjoying the game being less Tiger-centric these days.

My best friend is something of a golfing character. I haven't played since we moved to NC. Now, with the move back to Phoenix I will have the opportunity of hit the links with him again.


Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy a game of golf until I met too many 'serious' players. :-(