Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Where Have All the Characters Gone

Is it me or does Professional Golf seem to get more boring to watch with each passing year. It reminds me of the song by Paula Cole, “Where Have all the Cowboys Gone”? So, this in this weeks blog I ask, Where Have all the Characters Gone?

It is well documented about how much pressure the current players are under, playing for those huge purses. The talking head golf analysts say that because of the purse sizes there is less personality in the game. They claim that the players are playing for so much money and the fields are so much stronger than they used to be. Let’s face it, the players do not interact with the fans as much as they used to. They certainly give few straight answers to the media during interviews.

One of the neat things about the history of Professional Golf is the interesting characters and personalities who have played the game. Players like the Merry Mex- Lee Trevino, The King- Arnold Palmer, The Shark- Greg Norman among others. One of my favorite stories is when Lee Trevino talks about “playing for money”, i.e. betting when he had less money to his name than the bet on the course he was playing for. Trevino always said “now that’s pressure”. I would agree, whether Tiger or Phil win another million dollar check it does not matter to their financial well being. Knowing that they should be smiling from ear to ear knowing they have a net worth upwards of one billion dollars. They should be the happiest guys on the planet.

I have a theory when the shift occurred and point to the Sir Nick Faldo era for the change. Nick made it “acceptable” to be boring, stiff, reserved and unemotional on the course. Somewhere along the line these players forgot who is paying for their big purses, TV rights, endorsements. The fan, spectator or patron does and they want to see a show when they go to a golf tournament. The fans want to see a little character, flair and excitement. Not a bunch of overpaid, pampered athletes without any personality strolling down the fairways on their way to another million dollar payday. Although I have never been a big fan of Sergio Garcia, at least he played with passion, was inspired and showed his emotion on the golf course. Other tour players could learn from that example.

So when I ran across this article on Golf.com about Titanic Thompson I had to draw attention to this personality in Golf from the 30’s and 40’s. Although he was not exactly a model citizen or even a tour player he did bring some personality to the game. In his era he played, hustled and gambled for large sums of money on the golf course. In fact, he probably made far more money playing the game than did the Touring Golf Professionals of that time. So, one could argue that although quite talented it would have cost him too much money to turn professional.

Like most golf fans I knew little about Titanic Thompson prior to this article however, he was an interesting character and his story deserves to be told. As we look back on golf’s history it is worth noting these types of individuals who have a place in the game. Although Titanic may have never won a PGA Tournament or a Major Championship he does have a place in the game. He did interact with the likes of Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd as the article suggests. So for that he does deserve a mention with these greats in the game.

Who do you think were some of the most interesting characters in the game? Leave a comment with your thoughts.


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