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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Some Thoughts on Golf, Love and Money

Near the end of the movie Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, there's a scene where Jones (James Caviezel) is asked what's wrong with him that he isn't taking money from sponsors yet.

And Jones responds that the word amateur comes from the Latin word for love and that once you start taking money for something, it's not love anymore. Then O.B. Keeler (Malcolm McDowell) adds that money is going to ruin sports.

You might make an argument for Keeler's thoughts, but I think the movie Jones is completely wrong. And if that's what the real Jones really believed, I'd have to call him a hypocrite.

Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones

I got to thinking about this today when Phil posted a link on Facebook to a Golf Digest article called There's a Class Divide in Junior Golf and We're on the Wrong Side of It. The article's subtitle says it all:
Golf should be a meritocracy, but it's hard not to feel like certain kids are granted a head start.
It details one family's problems financing their teenage daughter's attempts to play amateur golf. It talks about how the kids whose parents had money to spare had access to so many more instructors, equipment (the occasional TrackMan was mentioned), playing opportunities and even college offers. It also detailed how the lack of opportunities compared to those more privileged kids threatened their daughter's dreams, how despair took its toll on her.

Ironically, she has continued to play because of two things. Her father struggled with similar problems growing up, so he has been able to give her some perspective.

The other reason is that, despite all the monetary barriers in her way, she continues to chase her dream because she loves the game.

You might think that's backwards of what Jones is saying in the movie. Jones says that taking money kills love, while I'm saying that being barred from money can kill love. But you're misunderstanding my point.

See, if money kills your love for golf (or anything for that matter) then you didn't really love it in the first place -- you loved the money you thought it would bring you. And i repeat, if the real Jones really did believe what his character says in the movie, I would call him a hypocrite. After all, Jones came from a family of lawyers and businessmen, who could afford to send him to college for not one but TWO degrees -- and just the law degree would have cost a fortune! Jones never had to worry about the money necessary to travel across country or overseas to play in amateur events.

The movie Jones could talk about how horrible money was because he had all the money he wanted. To say that being an amateur made him better than those who took money for playing makes him a hypocrite. And if that's how the real Jones felt... well, I would think less of him because he had no room to talk. He didn't know what it was like for a REAL amateur, who typically has little money to finance his or her love of the game.

There's a Bible verse that gets misquoted all the time. It's 1 Timothy 6:10. People think it says that money is the root of all evil, but what it actually says is "the love of money is the root of all evil." There are people who have a great deal of money but it doesn't have a hold on them, and there are people who have only a little but it rules their lives.

Money isn't the problem for us. It's how we feel about money, how much money controls us. We hear older players talk about how Bernhard Langer remains driven to succeed at golf while they don't. The reason is simple: Bernhard still loves the game more than the money.

The problem today isn't that money steals an amateur's love for golf. The problem is that money has become such a huge barrier to indulging our love for golf that only the rich or the pros can really afford it. It isn't the amateurs who are raising that barrier; rather, it's the people who stand to make the most money off of them.

And until that problem is removed, golf will never be what we all think it should be.

End of rant.

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