Genesis Invitational

Riviera Country Club

The Loop

A question of respect?

December 31, 2012

I have to confess that politics generally bores me, but occasionally I come across something that sheds a light on what's happening in golf, a world we all find much more stimulating and vital. Matt K. Lewis, a senior contributor for The Daily Caller and columnist for The Week, raises an interesting point about where we are with respect to, well, the respect leadership is given in today's world of easy attacks, faceless confrontations and divisiveness as cultural sport.

Lewis writes in a recent column on the difficulty John Boehner faced in corraling his fellow Republicans in the House: "Meanwhile, this trend coincides with the growing lack of trust in leaders and institutions--and a general lack of respect for leaders--that has been taking place in our society at least since Vietnam.

"Americans once belonged to the same church their whole life, worked at the same job for 40 years, and stayed married to the same person till death did they part. Those days are gone. Institutional loyalty has been degraded, and the person leading such an institution no longer has as much sway as he once did."

Again, forget about politics, please. But think about the decision made a month ago by golf's ruling bodies, two groups that have been entrusted with maintaining and sustaining the game for all of history. Think about the rancor we heard in some circles, clueless critiques of the "amateurs governing the professionals" from some precincts, and the willingness to even suggest that recreational golfers would play by their own rules in a sort of protest response to this new rule if it goes forward. But even beyond the rabble-rousing, it is at least a little confusing or distressing that leading golf organizations, most notably the PGA Tour, the PGA of America and the PGA of Canada, all have come out and questioned whether the rule is necessary.

This is a not some obscure decision involving temporary immovable obstructions. This is an attempt, belated perhaps but no less sincere because of that fact, to define what is and isn't a golf stroke, what is and isn't fundamental to the nature of the game. In a way it seems almost unnecessary that we ever reached this point, especially when golf's ruling bodies had it right in 1968 in outlawing the croquet style of putting.

Institutional loyalty simply as a matter of routine shouldn't be defended certainly. We're all for tearing down institutions when we're talking about irrational, murderous despots, or even blind faith in say a David Koresh-Jim Jones type. But as Mike Davis told me a month ago, "We don't want to hurt golfers, we don't want to hurt the game, but we just want to clarify what the game should be. We feel this is the right thing to do and we're passionate about it."

Makes sense, but in this era of distrust and free passes to criticize and tear down without offering solutions, one wonders if passion will be enough. One wonders, especially as another distance debate that seemingly has no winners looms somewhere in either the near or not-so-distant future, whether "the right thing" is a universal truth anymore.

Maybe what this whole thing needs more is, gulp, a political solution.