It’s official. Bob Hope is turning over in his grave. The wonderful tournament that was attached to his name for so many years is now the Humana Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation (flows trippingly off the tongue, doesn’t it?). I understand that things change, and I also understand that without Bob Hope’s heart and soul the relic of the sixties had little or no chance to survive. The Crosby had the same fate, and to a lesser degree, my tournament, the Byron Nelson Classic, has suffered as well.
In many ways the Hope, Crosby and Nelson are the victims of short-sighted marketing strategies, but in other ways they are victims of the digital age and our impatience with life at the speed of random access memory. In 1975, Gordon Moore, the cofounder of Intel, definitively stated that computing power would double every two years. Still, Gordon never dreamed that humankind would find even that inconvenient.
We are becoming the old joke standing in front of the microwave shouting hurry, hurry!!!
In an age where revolutions are created on Google and Facebook, what chance does a game that requires patience and discipline have? Golf, especially tournament golf, is a game of patience; however when both the fans and the players become impatient, something’s gotta give.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of the six hour round of golf, and I’m not against technology, or the digital age, or the magic of the PhotoShop program that I use to make me look a lot younger than I am. What I am against is forgetting to stop and smell the roses. Golf, more than any other sport is in a partnership with nature. Golf is the lake, river, forest and meadow that your mind needs to refresh itself. Golf is the slow that balances the fast; the serene that calms the craziness; and the Abbott to your Costello.
Granted, I have not always been the picture of calmness, and it is true that I cuss and I pout from time-to-time during a round. However here is the deepest secret nobody knows. Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life (my apologies to e.e. cummings). Golf makes me laugh and those of you who have seen me play know why. Laughter and the time I spend with my friends playing golf will always be special.
Tournament golf is also special, and the digital age has contributed greatly to its success and our own appreciation. Technology allows all of us to witness the greatness of the modern athlete broadcast live from almost anywhere in the world from the comfort of our living room. Perhaps only 30,000 people saw Ben Hogan’s iconic 1-iron live on the 72nd hole of the 1950 U.S. Open, whereas millions saw Tiger Woods’ dramatic 213-yard shot over water from a fairway bunker on the final hole of the 2000 Canadian Open.
I understand the benefits, but let’s also remember that even if we didn’t see it, Ben Hogan did hit that 1-iron, and it was great.
The bottom line is that it’s okay to use your new range finder and your new high-tech driver. It’s also okay to play fantasy golf and use the Internet to confirm your tee-times, reserve a golf cart and your table for lunch. Just do yourself a favor; the next time you’re standing on the first tee look around and tell yourself how lucky you are to be with friends playing the great game of golf... Then clear your mind and kick the dog out of them.