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William Watson: Forget the “essentials.” Allow what is safe

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Given the behavior of the virus in this pandemic, golf is one of the safest activities, even if you think it is elitist.

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Like golfers everywhere, my colleague Kelly McParland encouraged me defending of our game against the accusations of awakening that it is elitist. “In Defense of Golf as a Middle-Class Sport,” his piece was titled and, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, it was actually read by golfers around the world. And there is it so Golfers everywhere, even in Communist China, where an estimated 20 million play, despite an official ban on golf course development by Chinese authorities.

I can add evidence of the golf middle class. I started playing when my 11 year old son wanted to start the game because his best friend had. We started at a nearby public field where the fee on Monday through Friday afternoons is only $ 26. He thought the game was cool enough and plays every now and then. As for me, I became obsessed, as my wife will attest, and now I wake up at the age of five, in pitch black early and late in the season, to play a half-hour drive on an equally middle-class course.

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Many times I have played in our local field with people who arrived with their clubs by city bus. In all fields I have played with people of both sexes and of all ages, colors, nationalities and occupations. Although the best golfer of the last 40 years is mixed race, there is no question that Canadian golf is a mostly male, older, and primarily white game. But it is open to all and is incredibly democratic, welcoming and supportive.

Golfers are all equal and united by our disability. Even the best. Just last weekend, Keegan Bradley, a former winner of one of the four major championships (the PGA), inexplicably threw a ball into the water while leading the Valspar tournament in Tampa, double bogey six on the unfortunate 13th hole for him. , and lost the tournament. Xander Schauffele, a young American phenom, did the exact same thing three holes from the end of the Masters last month, although he challenged, he did not lead.

We all pursue the vision of “a white ball rising directly and far against the blue sky.” Most of the time it turns to the left or turns weakly to the right, on those occasions when it takes off, and we suffer, once again, the human destiny of the denied promise.

Every now and then you run into an idiot on the golf course. And almost everyone at some point yells at their ball or club or, more often, at themselves. But among themselves, golfers are unfailingly polite and affirmative. Good shots congratulate each other, bad shots commiserate, either silently or with silent encouragement. In almost 20 years of play, I have seen less than a handful of disputes, invariably with slow players in front or fast players behind. Adam Smith argued that the business society imposed good behavior. Golf seems to do the same.

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Golf is, of course, the only major sport whose professional version is officially organized as a charity. I guess it is mainly a tax scam. Still, the “give back” ethic is reinforced in weekly broadcasts by the generally awkward and uncomfortable sponsor-CEO who counts how many millions of dollars his company has donated to good local causes over the years. Golf is wonderful on TV, by the way, with its gorgeous, luxurious courses, its ball-tracking technology, those fancy primary-color bows that the pros create, and its quartets, fivesomes, and sextets of commentators, joking with each other. . while they watch the play unfold.

But, and this is my serious point, if you think that golf is wonderful, crazy, democratic, elitist, plutocratic, super bourgeois, whatever, it really doesn’t matter. That is your opinion. Penalty fee. But, as a wise but anonymous Roman, albeit probably a golfer, once said: De gustibus non est disputandum. Some people translate this as “there is no explanation for taste.” The most relevant interpretation here is that we should not discuss tastes, but live and let live. I think Kelly McParland is right and that golf’s center of gravity is decidedly middle-class. But that’s too defensive. Upper class, middle class, lower class, upper class or no class, it shouldn’t matter. If people want to participate in an activity and it doesn’t hurt others (or themselves), then they should be free to do so without your approval or mine.

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There is a corollary to the pandemic that we have all too often overlooked in the last year, but should be archived for reference for the next attack: what should govern whether activities are allowed when dangerous contagion is occurring, not most from us, a public health committee or body. The officer believes they are essential, but essential or not, whether they can be carried out safely. If they can, let them continue.

Given the behavior of the virus in this pandemic, golf is one of the safest activities. Where I play there is an inner interaction when you pay your round. But you are in a mask, the wizard is in a mask, and there is Plexiglass between you. Everything else is outdoors and it is easy to maintain a distance of two meters. (In my home group, my teammates’ units are always 20 yards ahead of me anyway.)

We all have basic physical needs. Beyond the frivolous of one person is the essential of another. In a free society, people decide for themselves which is which.

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