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Masters Golfers Take A Bogey On Georgia Voting Laws

Scoreboard at the Masters Tournament
Andy Simonds via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Scoreboard at the Masters Tournament

No one knows who first said golf is a good walk spoiled. The saying has been attributed to Mark Twain, but it first came to light in 1948, 38 years after Twain’s death.

Even if Twain had said it, I frankly am much more partial to the observations of another man who knew how to turn a humorous phrase, George Carlin.

The late great comedian offered a blistering, not suitable for work or polite society take on the sport in which he suggested, among other things, that the land that golf courses occupy would be better served providing housing for the homeless.

Everything about golf, from the pronounced sense of self-importance among the participants to the inherent attendant classism, sexism and racism make my blood run cold.

And there’s no single event that encapsulates the morally bankrupt nature of golf like the Masters, the annual salute to Southern elitism.

Held annually at an Augusta, Ga. course that took its good, sweet time admitting people of color and women, the Masters not only reeks of White, male privilege: it celebrates it.

It came as no surprise that during its time in the sun last week, hardly a word was spoken by club officials or competitors about the new laws enacted by Georgia legislators that will serve to suppress minority voters.

You know you’re on the wrong side of history when baseball, whose leadership is as stodgy as one could imagine, beats you to the moral high ground.

After the bills were passed and signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp last month, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wasted no time in deftly yanking this summer’s All Star Game from Atlanta to show the sport’s opposition.

Not only didn’t Manfred want the sport dragged through the sludge of the legislation, he didn’t want to have Black stars like the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts subjected to having to answer questions about playing against the backdrop of repression.

Even smarter, Manfred headed off any chance that Betts and others would embarrass baseball by declaring the All-Star Game off limits on their own.

Of course, with a dearth of minority golfers in Augusta, there was little chance that any of the participants would have had much to say.

Tiger Woods’ absence due to injuries sustained in a car crash last month substantially reduced the numbers of golfers of color.

But even if Woods had been present in Augusta, he has largely been silent on issues of public interest, choosing to remain in Laura Ingraham’s “shut up and putt” club.

At any rate, there was one golfer who exhibited some courage and spoke to the matter at hand in the moment.

Cameron Champ, a 25-year-old biracial golfer, took every opportunity he had during the tournament to speak out about the new Georgia laws.

Champ, who got to within three shots of the lead through the first two rounds, faded on the course, finishing out of the top 25.

But at a time when athletes of conscience are in short supply and in a place in desperate need of integrity, Cameron Champ more than met the moment and lived up to his name.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.