The majority of my posts are either previews of golfing events where I say a little bit about the course, the tournament and the odds on favourite. Along with some other statistics of recent winners. This week I thought I would take a different approach to what I write, obviously keeping with the theme of golf because that is ultimately what this blog is about. But the difference being the next few posts I will be delving into the history of the greatest golfing controversies in the world from past to present.
With any sport there are two things that get a player into the headlines, accomplishments and controversies. Golf is no different, from drug use to racism on the course, golf is still the one sport that is behind the times in terms of equality and etiquette.
There are places around the world that still live in the stone age when it comes to equality among different races. But racism in golf is rarely heard, it still exists and has always existed but with the two main tours consisting of mainly white players comments of race are hardly heard of.
Due to Golf’s unfortunate and discriminative past, issues still arise today. With former world number 1 Tiger Woods at the brunt of most of the comments.
In the early stages of the sport, Golf was only played by a select group, white men. As the sport progressed players and officials of the sport started to become more lenient with who was able to play. In 1975, Lee Elder became the first African-American to participate in the Masters and by doing so changed the sport for the better. However, not everyone agreed with his appearance at the Masters and he had to rent two houses during the tournament, where he moved between the two in order to protect himself from racial attacks. That same year, Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts was quoted in saying “To make an exception would be practicing discrimination in reverse.” He also went on to say, “As long as I am alive, golfers will be white and caddies will be black.” Clifford Roberts was widely known for his racist slurs and was a strong believer in keeping golf a white sport.
Golf has come along way from the dark ages where people with views like Clifford Roberts dominated the sport and has become a sport that allows everyone from every background to play. But even living in the 21st century, racial comments are still said but the outcome of the situation is quite different. With the introduction of one of the greatest players to ever live, Tiger Woods ultimately changed Golf for the better with the help of Nike. In 1995, Nike was the new kid on the block when it came to golf equipment. Not many endorsed in it and very few golfers used their equipment. But when Woods became pro in 1996, Nike made him their main man. With the introduction of Media, Woods became an Icon for all and with Tiger dominating the sport for the next decade, people still couldn’t get over the fact he was black. Even-though he brought greater media-coverage, increased TV ratings, increased the publicity of the sport ultimately providing more jobs at the events and introducing a younger audience to the game he was still ridiculed and ‘joked’ about on tour.
After his Maiden Major win at the 1997 Masters, Woods was ridiculed by former winner and 10 time PGA tour winner Fuzzy Zoeller. The two-time Major winner was quoted in an interview after Woods’ victory in saying, “He’s doing quite well, pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it.” After the comment, many complaints were made and Fuzzy later apologised for his comments and exclaimed they were just a joke.
Sergio Garcia was also heard reiterating Fuzzy’s comments. ‘We’ll have him round every night. We’ll serve fried chicken.’
Similar to Fuzzy, Garcia later apologised to Woods who again accepted the apology.
No punishments were given to either Garcia or Zoeller. Which shows that Golf is still backwards in its approach to racism. Take Football for instance, although racism plays a bigger part in football than it does in golf, the likes of the FA and general supporters are making an effort to stop racism. Programmes such as ‘Say No To Racism’ have a huge effect on the game and are slowly uniting players and fans of the sport. When Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, he was fined £40,000 and banned for eight matches. When John Terry was found guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, he was fined £220,000 and received a four match ban. So if other sports are fighting against racism and punishing those who racially abuse their fellow players and others, then why isn’t Golf following in their footsteps? Why are they not dishing out the punishments to the likes of Zoeller and Garcia? The question is, when will the PGA and other tours finally stop racism in Golf?