March 28, 2009

An Open Letter To The President

As A Father And A Chief Executive, Three Words You Might Want To Remember: The First Tee

Even amdist everything else President Barack Obama has going on, he should still consider introducing his daughters to golf.

Even amdist everything else President Barack Obama has going on, he should still consider introducing his daughters to golf.

Dear Mr. President:

Not that you don't have a lot on your plate already, but I know you like sports, both as a participant and as a fan, and I thought I'd drop you a line about a game I love -- golf. You see, my game is under attack right now, most of it unfair and all of it a shortsighted action that can sabotage the health and well-being of the country we love. Let me explain.

The matter leapt to the forefront because many professional golf tournaments are sponsored by companies from distressed areas of the economy, particularly automotive and financial services. What's overlooked is that these tournaments are not boondoggles that waste corporate money but rather well-spent marketing dollars that also contribute greatly to local economies.

These critics overlook three things essential to the business model of professional golf:

PGA Tour and LPGA tournaments generate more than $150 million dollars for charity every year. And that does not include the millions donated by charitable foundations created by individual players.

Tournaments pour millions of dollars into local economies. And among those industries struggling right now are hospitality and travel.

Sports marketing works. Corporations sponsor golf tournaments because it generates business, creates exposure and establishes a hospitable atmosphere for networking.

Anyway, I don't really want to talk to you about professional golf, Mr. President. I want to discuss recreational golf -- the fun, healthy activity being damaged by those trying to paint the game in a bad light. You play golf, Mr. President, so I know you understand when I say ours is a sport that nurtures not just the physical heart, but the spiritual one as well.

I couldn't help but admire that swing set at the White House you got for Sasha and Malia. And I absolutely love the fact that you can see the girls playing on it from the Oval Office. That is way cool. As a Dad, I totally get that. I also love the fact that you want the girls to get out of the house and be physically active. That's why I have this suggestion.

Get Sasha and Malia into a First Tee program, the initiative to get more kids involved in golf and to teach them life skills through the game The First Tee in Washington D.C. is at Langston Golf Course. And hey, is that putting green President Eisenhower had installed still on the White House grounds? Get a golf club into the girls' hands and take them out for a little chipping and putting.

From what I have read, I know that among your many challenges -- one that matters greatly to you -- is to be both a great President and a great father. Here are three reasons why I think golf can help you with both (You've probably noticed by now that I am a list-maker).

Fitness: Obesity is a problem in this country, and childhood obesity is epidemic. Now I know that those who don't play the game like to portray golfers as a bunch of lazy slugs. And while that stereotype is not completely without merit, it doesn't have to be the case.

Mr. President, call on all those who can to get out of their carts and walk when they play golf. As part of your effort to reform health care, an emphasis must be placed on preventative care and exercise is a big part of that. A round of golf is a five-mile walk. Let's encourage people to do that.

Family: What better game is there to play with your children than golf? You and they get physical activity, the mental focus of competition and still have quality time to interact. In a four-hour round of golf you spend at least half that time walking and talking.

Because of the unique competitive structure of golf -- multiple tees, handicaps, mulligans (ask President Clinton about those) you can create games that place you and the girls on an equal -- and fun -- footing. I'm thinking when you get them on the basketball court you can post them up pretty easily.

Values: Golf provides a wonderful blueprint for how we should live our lives. Respect for the rules and respect for your opponent are both at the heart of the game. You keep track of your own score, call penalties on yourself, and are taught to view honesty as a necessary part of the process and not as an annoying obstacle to success. Not a bad mindset to bring to any endeavor, eh?

The values of golf are exactly the values we should be trying to instill in our children. In fact, they are exactly the values we should be demanding from our political and business leaders. If those values were more universally adhered to, perhaps we would not be in the dilemma in which we now find our country, our world.

There is something else about golf, Mr. President, I'm not sure I have the words to express. But since you have played the game I'm certain you will be able to fill in whatever gaps left by my inadequate explanation.

Have you ever walked a golf course as the sun sets and the shadows stretch like long fingers across the lush grass? Have you played in the morning when the dew glistens like a million stars under a new sun? Have you had one of those moments when you stop, look around, take it all in and feel how lucky you are to be playing this grand game called life? Have you experienced that joy of a well-struck shot?

Above it all, Mr. President, more important than honoring the rules, refining the swing and focusing on the process of play is learning to embrace the passion, connected to the spirit of the game. Golf helps us find our center.

Mr. President, golf provides a path for a person to connect with their self, with others and with the beauty around us. Perhaps foremost among its lessons is the need for patience. Certainly, Mr. President, you would counsel us all to be long on that attribute right now.

Thanks for listening, Mr. President. Let's tee it up sometime. Better yet, tee it up with Sasha and Malia. It's a cool game that teaches those who play it a lot of wonderful life lessons. If I can help in any way, well I serve at the pleasure of the President. I heard that on "The West Wing".

Very sincerely,

Ron Sirak Executive Editor Golf World