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Golf-obsessed bishop tees up Pope Francis’ first U.S. visit with golf analogies

September 23, 2015

Golf, or at least references to it, turn up in the unlikeliest places, as it did on Tuesday in a keynote address by a bishop in advance of a visit by the Pope.

On the first day of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, Bishop Robert Barron, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, used golf analogies, even mentioning Golf Digest, in his the keynote address at the World Meeting of Families at which the Pope will appear later this week.

The Bishop equated himself to “a typical American,” who likes to play golf, “but am horrible at it.”

— “What Barron noted was that following the rules of golf or how to play a violin or anything else that a person takes seriously only makes them better. The same is true for their spirituality, he explained,” Peg Quann of the Bucks County Courier Times wrote.

— “Barron took aim at a complete freedom of expression, saying true freedom comes from living within the framework of God's law,” John Kopp of Philly Voice wrote. “He used golf as an analogy, saying a novice never will perfect his swing if he is simply told to swing however he wishes. Instead, guidance is needed to construct a disciplined golf swing that enables the golfer to accomplish his goals.”

“The law is not the enemy of freedom," Barron said. "The law is the condition for the possibility of freedom. What I am seeking is freedom to play the game. I want to be free. The law is going to set me free.”

— “Bishop Barron gave us the example of himself trying to learn how to golf,” Erin McColl Cupp wrote at “He just went out there at first and swung the 8 iron, no guidance. He was, essentially, just ‘being himself’ as a golfer with no guidance or rules. Then a pro golfer gave him a lesson on the physics and kinesthetics of the game, and when the lesson was over, then-Father said, ‘No! Teach me more!’ The law gave him success. When we teach ourselves, our children, and the whole world to ‘just be yourself,’ and that the rules don’t matter, we rob them and ourselves of success–of joy.”


Of course, a Catholic leadership position and golf are not mutually exclusive. For instance, there is the case of Sister Lynn Winsor, coach of the golf team at the all-girls Xavier Prep in Phoenix, is in the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame for producing 32 Arizona state championships.

Still, on such a solemn occasion and setting at the Philadelphia Convention Center, it was interesting that golf was mentioned at all. Then again, Bishop Barron seems obsessed with the game. Over the summer, when he received the phone call to inform him of his appointment, he said he was watching golf. And when NBC opened its final-round coverage of the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club with a patriotic montage that included the Pledge of Allegiance sans the words “under God,” the bishop was watching and wrote about it.

Barron calls himself an avid golfer, who works the game into his writing routine. “I often grab my pitching wedge and hit plastic golf balls across the room,” he said.

We have no knowledge as to whether Pope Francis, an Argentinian native, has any knowledge of countryman Angel Cabrera, winner of the U.S. Open and the Masters, though we’d like to think that he is at least aware of him.

Nevertheless, referencing golf was a nice way for the bishop to tee up Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States.