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New pro golf tour swings, misses on integrity

Tiger Woods has withdrawn from the PGA Championship for the first time in his professional career.
Christian Petersen
Getty Images
Tiger Woods has withdrawn from the PGA Championship for the first time in his professional career.

If the chatter around the game is accurate, this year’s U.S. Open might be one of the last times that the best in golf gather to play each other. According to this talk, golf, as we’ve known it, may not exist.

And I’m here for all of it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I despise professional golf. I wholly associate myself with the words of the late, great comedian and commentator George Carlin, who called golf quote an arrogant, elitist game which takes up entirely too much room in this country unquote.

Of course, Carlin had many other things to say about golf that I agree with but will not quote here as they might tend to put this station’s FCC license in jeopardy.

Actually, the game isn’t the problem. No, the issue with golf is the people who play it and particularly those who play it for a living.

While athletes in other sports have addressed racism and sexism within and outside their game, golfers historically have stepped over and around issues of the day on the way to the next paycheck.

Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the most hallowed tournament, the Masters, has reveled in its policies that, until only recently, kept Blacks and women from membership. It should, then, come as no surprise that the highest level of professional golf is on the verge of dividing and over the issue of money.

On one side is the 90-year-old PGA Tour, an amalgam of most weekly tour stops. This is where most golfers go from city to city, attempting to shoot low enough scores to earn a check if they don’t flat out win from money that comes from corporate sponsorship.

Life on the PGA Tour can be a grueling experience, particularly for those unaccustomed to sweating it out on fields or in gyms. And that’s where the new LIV tour comes in.

The LIV tour launched this year, pledging participants a relaxed schedule, but guaranteed appearance fees for bigger names.

So far, players like Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson have taken the leap and joined the fledgling tour, getting millions just for showing up. That the LIV tour is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst human rights offenders does not speak well for the tour.

That these golfers are willing to take Saudi money knowing the kingdom is using the tour to sports wash its reputation only adds to the image of the game as one where people will literally step over the bodies again to cash a paycheck.

To refresh your memory, the Saudis have reportedly sponsored the murders of those they deem to be enemies, including the grisly 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The PGA Tour has suspended all of the players who have joined the LIV tour, with apparently only the decision of the four major tournaments serving as a barrier from more cash grabs..

That means that the people who run the Masters may be called upon to save golf by doing something they’ve never done before: exhibit a social conscience.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games

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.