PGA Commissioner Deane Beman's edict that players shall be fined up to $1,000 for slow play on the pro golf tour has been seen as good for the game at all levels. The idea is that if the pros play faster, hackers will follow suit and the six-hour round will be a thing of the painful past. That's fine. Makes some sense. But what about the ants stomping the woods? What is Beman going to do about them?
Until the commissioner of golf acts to cut down noise pollution on the nation's courses, no time-limit rule will be effective. It is one thing to ask a player to speed up when conditions are ideal. Only anarchists would argue against that. It is wrong, though, to expect a golfer to hurry in the face of distractions and one wonders if Beman, now that he has a desk job, has forgotten what it's like out there.
We all suffered with Hubert Green at the Masters. Needing a three-foot putt for a tie, he was about to strike it, when a radio announcer's voice interrupted him. Hubert backed away. As Pinocchio's nose grew with each lie, little putts grow in length with each second's delay. Hubert smiled at the radio man. Turning again to his work, he found the putt 33 feet long. He missed it.
The noise ruined Green's day. If Commissioner Beman is serious about speeding up play, he will establish committees to study ways and means of achieving dear silence on America's golf courses. For while we hackers seldom suffer interruption by a radio announcer, we are daily hounded by the devil's own orchestra of cacophony.
Ants love it when we hit a ball into the woods. They pause on their way to the grocery store to snicker and point antennae at us.
Our problem is thus compounded. Had we made a good swing in the first place, we would not be there. And how are we to make the necessary good swing to escape if we cannot concentrate? And how, high commissioner, are we to concentrate when ants are allowed to crash through the woods without regard to our rights to quiet?
Butterflies are worse. The awful pounding of their wings has destroyed many a fine man.
A newspaperman in Kentucky, Mike Barry, grew old and wise even though in constant combat with an enemy he called The Fearsom Ball Snatcher. Barry believed the monster lurked in bushes and ate golf balls it snatched away from unwary hackers. That's why Barry developed such a fast backswing. "Can't let him have much time," he said.
Butterflies brought him to tears. "The Snatcher, I can handle," Barry said. "That internal racket, I can't." And he missed another two-footer.
These are real problems. Dean Beman, being good enough at it to have been a touring pro, wouldn't know the travail endured by hackers. He never hit it near an ant's grocery store. And when is the last time you saw a butterfly approach Jack Nicklaus at Augusta? These men don't know true fear. Have they ever drawn a five-iron back for a shot over water, reaching the top of the swing at the instant two clouds clanged together?
Probably not. In their naivete, they probably also believed play would be speeded up if we all imagined the flight of our next shot. Books tell to do that.
For Nicklaus, such imaginings may be joyful, the ball flying in a beautiful, dreamy arc. Study the shot, imagine it, hit it. Simple and fast. But for hackers, the act of imagination is terrifying. We say, "Oh, my Lord am I going to put it in with the ants AGAIN?" So we wait until the vision passes. Fine us $1,000, commissioner, but we ain't hittin' until we ain't thinkin' about nothin' . . .
We are told by Beman that the average touring pro needed 38 seconds to line up and hit his first putt. The second putt used only 14 seconds. While that seems to indicate a downward progression, we hackers know that more time is spent on the third putt than on the first two combined. That's because of the cursing involved. Fie on the falling leaf that struck nearby with such a thud.Drat the shadows advancing on tank threads.
Plainly, golf is no easy game. Instead of denigrating us for using six hours to finish a round, the commissioner should offer congratulations that we make it at all. Perhaps he could award each survivor a butterfly, mounted.