It is the biggest game in town. Not here in the middle of Middle America, but in Oakmont, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh. We host the Special Olympics, the Show Me Games and Senior Games, but they are nothing compared to the biggest citizen tournament in the United States — the United States Golf Association’s 2007 Open.
I am a golf fan. When frustrated or experiencing writer’s block, you can find me at the driving range beating the heck out of a bucket of balls. Oh, I enjoy baseball and I played hockey while in college, but there is just something about golf. The fresh air, friends and colleagues, the sound of the driver hitting the ball and the ball dropping into the hole. Mr. Twain, you were wrong.
If you read the sports section of our other neighborhood paper last week, you know that I will never threaten the likes of Tiger, Ernie and Phil. I cannot shape a shot, my putting is erratic and the wind at the Senior Games golf tournament had it in for me, forcing three golf balls into the water. I know that my only hope of being inside the ropes at a USGA Open event is as a marshal, “Stand please. Quiet please.”
If you are not a golf fan, I am sorry. You are missing a wonderful day with friends and colleagues, fresh air, riding on one of those silly carts (I usually walk), knowing that hitting a golf ball straight and far is the second hardest thing to do in sports. Knowing that Tiger, Ernie and Phil have shanked a ball in the water, just like you.
The USGA Open is unique — amateurs, college players and weekend duffers, all with very low handicaps, competing head-to-head with the professionals. This does not happen in any other sporting event. In qualifying rounds around the world, hundreds of amateurs sought to be among the final 156 who teed off Thursday. I would love to see the MU Tigers baseball team meet the St. Louis Cardinals in a national championship. I would love to see a real World Series! Never happen.
There is an integrity, honesty and moral high ground in golf, as there should be for politics. As a volunteer PGA official for 10 years, I have seen golfers call infractions on themselves, ask for ruling assistance from competitors and lose tens of thousands of dollars in prize money for their honesty. I have never seen a bench-clearing brawl on the 18th green. (“I went to the fights last night and a hockey/baseball/basketball game broke out!”) Golfers are not ejected from a game for throwing punches or cussing at a rules official. They are fined for cussing too loud because they are angry with their own error when missing the easy four-foot putt.
In 2008, golf will be my method of choosing the next president of the United States. There is a long-standing tradition of golf in the White House. Half of our presidents — most great presidents — last century played golf, so why stop now?
With the elections still 17 months away, we have plenty of time to organize a presidential candidates golf tournament. It should be a USGA-sanctioned, 72-hole, four-day event. Make it a fundraiser for advancing K-12 science and math studies. Simulcast on PBS, the Discovery Channel, The Golf Channel and CBS. Get Mike Rowe, Gary McCord, Bob Barker and George Stephanopoulos to narrate the event. Have Arnie, Annika, Tiger and Fuzzy working the course. Choose a venue where the commoner plays the game — a public course — without manicured expensive fairways, without perfect sand traps and without irrigation — but with a lot of irritation.
The USGA Rules of Golf speak of etiquette and integrity of the game. “The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules.” This is a simple criterion to choose the next president of the United States.
Golf will reveal the true politician, the integrity, honesty and ethics. Golf is non-partisan. Golf is “the people’s sport.” I say “Please tee up your candidates and let the games begin!” Just one question — do any of the current challengers even play golf?
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.