Why the bonds of golf are so vital
March 18, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If I were to play golf with Rory McIlroy and hit my drive 260 yards before he hit his 395, would that adhere to “social distancing” protocols?
As I sat home during the long, strange weekend of not covering THE PLAYERS Championship, I had this and other thoughts about the meaning of golf in all of this.
For the record, I was working on a story about how stars such as Webb Simpson and Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott celebrated winning THE PLAYERS on the decidedly un-festive occasion of coronavirus canceling the tournament. How ironic.
For the record, Simpson swung by Wendy’s for a double cheeseburger on his way home, just as he had after winning the U.S. Open. Mickelson and his lawyer popped over to Dwight’s in Jax Beach for lobster ravioli. Scott spent Sunday night at Stuart Appleby’s house in Orlando and, he admitted with a bemused smile, attended a Britney Spears concert the next day.
“Hey, it was 2004,” Scott said with a laugh.
And that all adds up to – what? I don’t know. And I’m not sure what it says that for me golf has connected some grim historical plot points: the 1989 Bay Area earthquake (I was playing), the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (playing) and the coronavirus cancellation (working, until not working).
Coronavirus canceled a friend’s wedding, too. Or postponed it. Golf was on the itinerary the day before the ceremony. On Facebook, I read about the anguish he’d felt in making the decision to cancel after all that planning and anticipation.
Relatable, if you watched in real time as PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan decided to cancel THE PLAYERS, Valspar Championship, World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Valero Texas Open. The Corales Punta Cana Resort Championship: postponed.
The same goes for the Masters, the Boston Marathon, and too many other sporting events that occupied too many squares on the calendar. March Madness? Gone, along with every other NCAA spring sport. The NBA, NHL, MLB – on hold, all of it. Youth sports: also gone.
Then on Tuesday, four more PGA TOUR events canceled – RBC Heritage, Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Wells Fargo Championship and AT&T Byron Nelson. And another major postponed (PGA Championship).
And that all adds up to – what? I don’t know.
What I do know is that I play golf and cover the TOUR because it is the opposite of social distancing, in the figurative sense. Socially, it is the animating force of my life. I won’t forget that I was playing golf with my roommate at Cal during the 1989 earthquake, or that I thought he was going to have to call an ambulance because suddenly Cameron couldn’t walk straight.
I will always remember 9/11 and how I was supposed to be playing golf with friends from Sports Illustrated in a staff tournament called the Christmas City Classic in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We tried to play a few holes, some of us, then huddled around the TV in our host’s living room.
Today, golf gives me occasion to talk to my across-the-street neighbor (no PLAYERS tickets needed this year), and our next-door neighbor (yes, please, although never used), and various friends and relatives whom I barely talk to unless it’s TPC week.
It gave me occasion to talk to Rickie Fowler (tacos in the TPC clubhouse) and McIlroy (Silver Oak wine back at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club) last week about their PLAYERS celebrations.
And what is golf for them? More or less the same as it is for all of us. A way to make a living, yes, but also the connective thread, the glue in the scrapbook of their memories.
It’s Gary and Amy at TPC Scottsdale, and their bond that somehow brought us all a little closer. It’s $3 billion worth of charitable contributions, and humanity, and touch points. It’s PLAYERS winners remembering what they did, but more so who they were with.
“I remember having a beer up in the old clubhouse,” Adam Scott said, “with Butch Harmon and Thomas Bjorn and Marie (Kojzar, his wife) was there, and that was fun.” Then: back to Appleby’s house. Next day: Britney Spears concert, with Kojzar.
“I don’t think Apples went to the concert,” Scott added.
Si Woo Kim recalled missing his flight home but having dinner with his father after winning THE PLAYERS in 2017. Those types of moments, those stories, are the ones I remember. Cameron Champ winning the Safeway Open while his grandfather, who got him into the game, lay in hospice nearby. J.T. Poston winning the Wyndham Championship as his grandfather, who got him into the game, followed him around Sedgefield Country Club.
Tiger as the Pied Piper on the occasion of his 80th win at the TOUR Championship at East Lake, and Tiger winning his 15th major at the Masters, and everyone remembering where they were and with whom, especially those of us who were there.
That’s golf, and TOUR golf, at its best – connecting us to each other, and strengthening those connections. Without that, absent golf as the organizing principle of our lives, who would we be?
With luck, we’ll never know. We’ll get through this, and golf will be there waiting on the other side, timeless and unchanging, ready to help us navigate the world once again.