Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Golf gone wild

Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you should.

Case in point. Two Vancouver golf clubs have now instituted English only policies. That means if you can't converse in English, go golf somewhere else. A similar policy is being implemented by the LPGA.

(Other case: Sen. John McCain choosing a VP candidate on a gut reaction without apparently vetting Gov. Sarah Palin for potential political problems such as a teen pregnancy or alleged state corruption, but let's let sleeping elephants lie.)

Legally, a private club can set restrictions on its members without discriminating against a race or creed. But this one seems to go against the spirit of what golf should be about —  whacking a white (or pink) ball down a fairway (or off of one), making pars and drinking beer.

Having spent eight days this month covering a fairly major amateur golf tournament (the Tamarack at Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba), I witnessed this in spades even as golfers attempted — and made — 40 foot putts from the fairways. Rarely did I ever see any ill will against someone. Often, I saw people enjoying the spirit of the game in a manner that would have made Rodney Dangerfield proud (though there were very rare instances where sour faces prevailed).

As the Tamarack is both a medal (stroke) and match play tournament, it serves as a true test of a complete golfer. To even have a shot to win the event, golfers have to place in the top-16 in stroke play. Considering this year's winner caddies at the Old Course in St. Andrews and beat a man from Scotland, the competition in the top flight was as good or better than the Canadian Senior Open I covered in 1999. Except for Jack Nicklaus, but you get the point. These guys can play.

Some were never without a caesar the whole weekend (picture Julien walking around on the Trailer Park Boys, never spilling a drop.) Others never drank at all until the round was over. Yet all shared the most sportsmanlike attitudes the sport should embody. Bad shots were greeted with a "I'm sure it's still in good shape."

By excluding members based on an ability to speak English the golfers who are members at those clubs lose a chance to learn more about other cultures. I guess that's their right, but it doesn't make sense to me.

Could you imagine what would happen if Major League Baseball did the same thing? How many Latinos or Asian players would be cut off from the North American audience? What if a scout refused to call in a guy who threw a 100 MPH slider just because the player couldn't communicate in English?

Both the Vancouver clubs and the LPGA have driven their balls so far into the rough they'd need GPS just to be found by their caddies.

Language has little to do with the sport. It's how you hit the ball, stupid.

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