By Bob Carney
USGA president Tom O'Toole announced Saturday at the association's annual meeting in Pinehurst, N.C., the USGA would begin promoting alternative forms of golf -- larger holes, things like that -- but quickly added, "We're not going to call that golf."
Ouch. Did he need to say that?
If I play hoops in the backyard I call it basketball. And so does the NBA, I'm quite sure. It promotes the heck out of "the city game" and yet is quite happy to include suburban kids playing on adjustable hoops in their driveways. "Oh, I'm sorry. You can't call that basketball until you've raised the hoop to 10 feet and played on sides of 5."
But we're golf. We're different. We want to "grow" the game of a lifetime, so please join us, but understand, of course, you'll have to prove yourself before you're really one of us. Real golf is maybe paying $150 to play a round on a course with a slope of 140 and greens running at 12, abiding by rules you don't understand while you shoot, say, 120 over about five hours. Remember, you must count every miserable stroke. That makes you a real golfer.
I'm very happy that the USGA is broadening its horizons. And O'Toole's new attitude is welcome. But I mean, what other sport does this to itself? What other sport promotes itself and then sets standards about whether you can say you're really playing it?
I'll tell you what. If I play Putt Putt I call it golf. If I play three balls and practice on every single hole at Brooklawn CC, it's golf. If it's a pitch-and-putt course, that's golf. If I take a cart, it's golf. If I walk with six clubs -- or 20 -- it's golf. If the hole's too big, golf. If we play cross-country in the snow, golf. If it's hitting balls at the driving range, golf, golf, golf. And if my kid and I put oversized soup cans in the back yard, turn up the Spotify and play the National Soup Can Open, that's golf. Golf, golf, golf.
Those are my games. If you play any of them, or anything close, welcome to my sport. We want you.