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Wednesday
Nov152017

The Fine Line Between Desperation And Authenticity In Sports

I wrote in the latest Golfweek about the importance for golf to remember the fine line between desperation and authenticity in promotion of the sport.

The confluence of recent events--from Henrik's sore rib caused by the HSBC stunt, to the suddenly iffy future of the NFL, suggests golf needs to sell the values that got the game to age 500 (or so).

For a perfect example of how quickly can sour when desperation takes hold, check out Ben Rothenburg's NY Times story on the ATP Tour trying tweaks to tennis via its NextGen event.

If you like the sport at all, you'll be intrigued by the ideas (pace of play, technology) and less inspired by the motivations (millennial attention spans, etc...). But as with so many of golf's stunts, organizers got carried away and the tennis portion of the experiment was forgotten following a draw party boondoggle.

Instead of drawing chips from a bowl, organizers instructed the young players to select a model who would then reveal a letter, A or B, on her body to determine each player’s group.

The first model selected hiked up her dress and pulled her garter to reveal the letter A. Another instructed a player to remove her glove with his teeth.

The tennis world quickly expressed its disapproval at the crass sexualization of the event. The Hall of Famer Amélie Mauresmo called it a “disgrace,” while the French player Alizé Cornet mocked the regressive start to a showcase of innovations.

“Good job ATPWorldTour,” Cornet wrote on Twitter. “Supposed to be a futurist event right? #backtozero.”

An apology was issued and most didn't even up talking about the tweaks to format that included no line judges, shorter sets and a court presented without the doubles alleys. Desperation won in straight sets.

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Reader Comments (10)

Promotion of the game of golf comes from the quality of the players (sorry I can’t call all of them Golfer because IMHO many are not wanting to play Golf). Without that quality, defined by the skill of the players, there is no enthusiasm for others to commit to Golf as it is already conceived as expensive and elitism. These very problems that many of the 19th Century GOLFERS tried so hard to remove form the game and looking at the record did so with great success with nearly every town in Scotland possessing a golf course.

The lack of skill, so defined by the reliance of technology (uncontrolled) and players aids including the modern desire to represent fairways finishes and Greens as super overwatered slick and over engineered, so as to not delay the players march towards the pin. Add to that the design of many a modern course is prone to favour the aerial shot, thus reducing the need (apparently) to continue to place hazards.

Today we have players who are not interested in the Game of Golf but more the pot of Gold, while designers seem to have lost the very concept of the game and its requirements to test and challenge ALL players and golfers. So how can today’s game of golf or even many of our so called golf courses attract new blood.

As for ‘Authenticity’ – that horse has bolted many decades ago when players used carts, required distance aids and designers plainly just forgot the very basic of Golf Course Design. As for the Governing Bodies – there lies the real tragedy in all of this – they lost not just the sight of golf but the understand as to how it was played even when it happened in front of their nose at St Andrews.

A fine line between desperation and authenticity – today desperation is when The R&A select a Club/Course to host a future OPEN then seek to change the very course they selected to further take the game of golf away from its roots – clearly not the Custodians of Golf, more the Judas Iscariot of golf, the money they make from the game is more important than the Game of Golf.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
Got a feeling that if Old Tom were around today, he would also be interested in the pot of Gold. After all, he had 4 kids to feed, one of which couldn't walk. His wife didn't get out much. It's cold in St Andrews much of the time, so there is a house to heat after all.

And, you never know when the gutty business might go cold, the way of the feathery. Or wood shafts.

But back to Geoff's original premise - yes the action should speak for itself. The show that is the Ryder Cup has gotten way out of hand - opening ceremony this, poor sports in the crowd that.

The folks at Augusta do a pretty good job, if you can get past the drippy guitar opening music that seems to have been used just about forever.

There is no reason to cotton to millennials - they don't like the game much at the moment. At some point, some will, and golf will survive another hundred or so years. But better with a shorter ball on a smaller footprint.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHardy Greaves
@Hardy Greaves

You may have done some reading, but you don't understand it - that's the whole point I am making - many just don't understand golf or Golf Course Design.

PS No Old Tom was not into money, that's why he only charged £1 per day design fees, never changed the charge for 50 years - as for cold, he went swimming 365 days a year in the North Sea all his life - he outlived all his kids too.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
Old Tom Morris, my great grandfather, was secretly always more invested in the promotion of golf rather than the design or play of the game. In fact the reason the Old Course went from 22 to 18 holes was because he had lost a bet in a gambling match to a local developer. The developer took over the 4 other holes.

There's not a doubt in my mind that he would be fully on board with walk up music and would even encourage noise from the crowds for all shots. That's why he drank heavily when he competed. His nerves would only calm with some swills of his favorite drink - Johnny Walker Blue. The Park's hated him for this. Young Tom Morris never could handle his liquor.

I know I'm off on a tangent but it's nice to share some history that others may not know. The point is my great grandfather was all about unconventional thinking and was in favor of whatever brought more eyeballs and money to the game. He was a businessman first, golfer second.

/s/ Melvyn Hunter Morrow
I must have missed a lot of posts as it is hard to follow. Sounds like some folks are in the penalty box...

That being said, Golf would be well off if it stuck with its original tournaments, supported its base and the towns that support it. Cheesy sideshows are good for silly season, and that is about it.

ATP should be a cautionary tale for golf:

1) let the technology get away from them (rackets too powerful created too many aces and baseline hitting)

2) no tournament support other than majors (remember the Volvo and Virginia Slim tournaments? Now, I barely watch a major)

3) Too many tournaments, and players mailing in early losses for money. (sound familiar? I am looking at you, WGC...)
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR
Golf interest and viewership has always been dominated by golfers, with the occasional exceptions of Arnie, Jack and Tiger followers. There was also a Walter Mitty aspect in that while watching you knew you at one time had hit that 280 yd. drive down the middle, nailed that 100 yd. approach to a tough pin and sunk that curling 20 footer. Bomb & gouge and 14 on the Stimp has taken that away.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterOriginal AG
A cautionary tale indeed. I'd argue that the game has never been the same since the advent of the tee-peg. Forming a perfect mound consistently on each teeing ground was a true skill, akin to stopping a gutta percha (sin of a golfing ball) within 25 yards of its pitchmark (this of course being pre-niblick). Add in 17 or 18 jiggers of Johnnie Walker Blue by the end of the competitive round and only true Mussleburghmen could properly mound their balls -- the rest forced to play first shots off the bare fescue!

I trust you all are able to see my point - innovation does not always equal improvement!
Shoprite took the cake for desperation this year.
11.15.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
@Melvyn's Inner Demons

Thought you might like to see your great grandfather https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk47iTydOik - hope it helps you understand the game a little more and perhaps the strong feeling that the game, its history and golf course architecture means to Anderson/Robertson/Morris/Hunter/Rusack Family.
11.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
@Tom Morris. Thanks for the link. Will check it out.

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