John Steigerwald's Sports Column
PGA wants to give new meaning to hole-in-one
Golf is hard.
You know that if you play it or used to play it and quit. It’s also slow, and it can be expensive. Golf courses are seeing a huge drop in business as more people quit, and young people are not playing it in the numbers that they used to. The PGA is concerned and is trying new ideas meant to encourage more people to play.
It’s bad news for you if you’re a serious golfer.
By serious golfer, I mean you care about your score, you play by the rules, you count all your strokes and probably wear a shirt when you play.
And when you hear that fewer and fewer people are playing golf, you consider it good news because the courses you play are too crowded.
Apparently, the everybody-gets-a-trophy crowd has infiltrated the PGA. Instead of encouraging people to take lessons and practice to make themselves better, it is coming up with ideas to make people think that they’re playing better by doing things such as enlarging the hole to the size of a large pizza.
Or allowing one mulligan on every hole.
It’s kind of like eliminating that annoying net in tennis.
Ted Bishop, the president of the PGA told the New York Times, “We’ve got to offer more forms of golf for people to try. We have to do something to get them into the fold, and then maybe they’ll have this idea that it’s supposed to be fun.”
The 15-inch holes are being installed at about 100 golf courses around the country, and Bishop says he expects that 90 percent of golf courses will be offering 15-inch events within five years.
There’s also a golf ball available that doesn’t hook or slice. Imagine what that will do for every hacker’s self esteem. The idea, obviously, is to make it easier for people to pretend they can play golf.
Dottie Pepper, a former LPGA star, is one of two women on the PGA task force, and she told the Times she hoped the coming changes would soften the game’s image and make it more inclusive of women.
Let’s keep in mind that golf’s been around for about 900 years. It began with a few bored men in Scotland, who started using sticks to knock rocks into rat holes.
The game has been hard for multiple centuries. Maybe we should be asking what it is about humans in the 21st century that the game has suddenly become too hard.
• Don’t dismiss the idea of Pierre McGuire becoming general manager of the Penguins too quickly. Maybe you’re not a big fan of his work as the between-the-benches guy on NBC’s NHL telecasts, but he’s a lot more than a TV guy. And remember, he has the TV gig because somebody thinks he knows a lot about the game and has lots of connections. He had a solid enough knowledge of the game in 1992 that none other than Scotty Bowman made him one of his assistants with the Penguins.
McGuire has spent several years analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of every team and every player in the NHL. Think of the information he was given by players and coaches off the record that he couldn’t use on TV, but would come in pretty handy as a general manager. He’s probably a long shot for the job, but considering him is not a crazy idea.
• When are the major archery organizations going to do something about making that bull’s eye a little bigger? The size of a medium pizza might get me interested in taking up the sport.
• Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice held a press conference Friday to discuss the video of him dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator. He didn’t take questions. If you’re not going to answer questions, save everybody’s time and send out a press release. He’s sorry, by the way.
• Dallas Mavericks owner and Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban is the latest person of influence to find out that it’s impossible to have an intelligent conversation about race without ending up in internet hell.
• From July 4, 2013 until Memorial Day 2014, the Pirates are playing sub-.500 baseball.
• The NFL has decided to award the Super Bowl to Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2018. Probably because Detroit was so much fun.
• Sports Business Journal named the NHL the League of the Year in 2014. Commissioner Gary Bettman was sports Executive of the Year. The Bridgestone Winter Classic was Event of the Year and NBC Sports group won Best in Sports Television.
• Maybe golf courses should start handing out trophies to every player who finishes a round. That would get them to come back.
• The NCAA’s days might be numbered. A judge denied its remaining motions and ruled that Ed O’Bannon’s antitrust suit will go to trial June 9. A sports attorney told me recently we should expect a crater where the NCAA offices are when the trial is over.
John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter