When the press was all abuzz about whether Donald Drumpf was going to be at Doral or not, we couldn’t help wondering if everyone was making a much bigger deal about it than we should have been. As it turns out, our sentiments weren’t far off the mark. He made a grand entrance in a helicopter, signed a bunch of autographs, shook some hands and well, that was pretty much it. For the presidential race’s most controversial candidate to come and go with nary a ripple is certainly worth remarking on. The only golfers who have demonstrated a stance one way or another were those who enthusiastically support him (we’re looking at you, John Daly). The tepid reaction may seem like an incongruous thing in a sport focused on the individual, but you’ll find that golfers are an evasive lot when it comes to speaking out about anything.
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Why this is strange
What we find absurd is that golfers seem less like individuals than players of sports like soccer. While it’s a team sport backed by powerful, wealthy football clubs, soccer players are very much celebrities in their own right who don’t shy away from speaking their truth. Men like Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi have become cult figures, inspiring such a massive, devoted fanbase that they sometimes reduce grown men to tears at the mere sight of them. Others like Cristiano Ronaldo and Henry don’t hesitate to disparage their teammates or even former managers if they fail to make the cut during a game. However, golfers have all remained suspiciously mum even when directly asked what they think of Donald Drumpf. For players who represent themselves, they seem unduly afraid of offending important men.
Soccer players are also not shy to comment on the affairs of the outside world. Because they play as representatives of their countries, the politics of their homelands often becomes very much intertwined with the beautiful game. Who could forget when Armenia and Turkey made peace in 2008-09 over a game of football? Or when the Algerians stood against the French in the 1958 World Cup for their own independence? We’re sad to say that there are precious few rousing moments like this in the history of golf, where players have taken a firm stance on a current issue. Could you imagine Jordan Spieth smoking a drive to protest Drumpf’s proposed wall to keep out Mexicans? We didn’t think so.
Golf culture doesn’t reward dissenters
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Like it or not, the only time individuality is truly celebrated is when you’re on the course playing. The same people who will applaud your quirky swing or your latest tantrum will frown upon any contentious political rants when you’re all getting drinks at the 19th hole afterwards. Or at least, they will if your views don’t happen to align with those of the demographic that persists in golf culture to this day. Golf has always attracted a certain type of person, a conservative white male who is on the whole very resistant to change. This collective mindset has always been a factor in golf, making it difficult for women golfers to be taken seriously or for homosexual players to come out openly to members of their club. Standing out in a culture that so strongly adheres to the status quo is no small task and it’s no wonder a lot golfers don’t want to bother doing so.
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Conservative politics also mean a conservative approach to “being yourself”. It’s very telling that the most popular player in the game today is among the least offensive. Jordan Spieth is no doubt an incredible player, but he also plays the part of the consummate gentleman perfectly. He never has anything nasty to say about his opponents, he prides himself on being a man who takes care of his family and he is equally as polite and composed when he interacts with his fans. He’s just an all around good guy who happens to play impeccable golf and well, no one could want anything more, could they? When he’s setting the standard for golf personalities anywhere, it’s hard to be anything less than pleasant and unobtrusive in public.
Golfers live in their own world
Dustin Johnson was probably being very honest when he said, “I don’t really get into politics.” Particularly in the professional circuit, golfers tend to occupy a very cloistered environment. Shut away from the rest of the world in idyllic golf clubs, they remain aloof from the issues that plague others on a different socio-economic level. The problems the groundskeeper faces are likely to leave your average golf club member bewildered and maybe even unsympathetic. We hate to say we’re out of touch, but there’s an element of that that applies to the way we look at the world. We don’t see the things that happen in it as pertinent to us as long as we can keep playing on in comfort. That’s why a man like Donald Drumpf fits comfortably into our world. He’s not saying anything we disagree with.
Also, with all their time focused on perfecting their game, the only thing most golfers are concerned about winning is a tournament, not an election. Politics has no immediate effect in their realm, even when they’re playing in Doral. So we suppose that we can’t blame them for being a tad distracted when asked to give feedback on a situation that seems as remote as Fiji. They do have a game to play and we’d be equally as annoyed if golfers spent more time weighing in on injustice or presidential elections than practicing their swing. All the same, it would be great if we could be better at thinking of the big picture instead of keeping our focus microscopic and unthreatening. We may seem immune to the world at large, but when golf clubs become more expensive because of higher taxes or golf courses are less well-maintained when our immigrant workers are sent home to their countries, we may find ourselves wondering when change crept in and pulled the rug from beneath our feet.