Last night I shared dinner with two old friends, one a journalist who works now for philanthropic causes, the second a very bright guy (not that the journalist isn't) in aviation safety, who works on software and systems I can't explain, but could save your life. Not golfers, but pretty sophisticated guys in a very sophisticated city. I asked them: "What's your image of golf? What comes to mind when I mention it?" One said, "Country club." The second said "White and Republican."
Still?! I thought. Really?! I thought
After what seems like a lifetime of talk about changing the game's image, of endless industry conferences, of Get Golf Ready programs, of the First Tee, of National Golf Days, of We Are Golf, of the hiring of huge firms to handle the sport's government and public relations, of Tiger.....that's still what you think of us? Country club? White? Republican?
Ok, it's a tiny sample, but this is from two guys who pay attention and care about what's going on in the world, who spend their days contributing to a better one, and who are just the sort of people we want on our side. We want them to play, and even if they don't, to be supporters. Alas, they are, as they say in this city, "Leaning no."
That's why today's game between a left-handed African-American president and a white conservative Midwestern Republican Speaker of the House on a public (military) course matters. That's why having the news stations and political reporters covering it -- they wouldn't give Golf Digest a credential -- matters. Because it's not just white, country club or Republican. It's the national game.
Why do we care?
1. Because this sport has so much to offer and it's our job, every generation of golfers' job, to get that word out.
2. Because we've seen what damage public figures can do to our sport and to the companies that support it when they don't understand the value of the game.
3. Because our game's growth is by no means a given, no matter what the demographics suggest.
Rory McIlroy's race for the record is a huge deal. But this "match" is a really big deal, too.
Go Boehner. Go Obama. You show 'em.
-- Bob Carney