Masters sets standard for fan behavior, others should follow

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To a degree it’s been going on for years, the taunting, the foul remarks and yes, obscenities that a few—a very few—golf fans have inflicted on PGA Tour players and others who are unfortunate enough to be within hearing.

These asinine antics have been on the increase this year as though it’s suddenly okay for adults to act like hyper 15-year-olds away from mommy for the first time.

We also are being treated to the television coverage of some particularly obnoxious specimens, having been pointed out by players, being tossed out by security. This gave rise to more media coverage, a flood of articles over the seriousness of the situation and the usual handwringing about where it is all going.

What dumbfounds me is the players are the ones having to do the policing. Not the PGA Tour, not tournament security. The talk is all about how many drinks certain fans may have imbibed. Getting drunk at a tournament can certainly bring out the worst in fans, or free them up to exhibit their inner jerk.

Point being, are there any circumstances, drunk or sober, where you would feel the need to yell something (Mashed Potatoes, You Da Man, insert any other stupid phrase) immediately after a tour player strikes his ball, hoping pathetically I guess to hear your voice later on your DVR? Or, drunk or sober, would you be rude enough to yell “Get in the Bunker,” whether or not you had downed a few too many beers or cocktails?

You see my point? You’re either an A-hole or you’re not. If you’re inclined to that behavior at sporting events, I’m sure professional wrestling is coming somewhere to a city near you. Please refrain from going to golf tournaments.

Golf is unique. It is played outside in a relatively uncontrived setting and has for hundreds of years been a sport of courtesy to others and following the rules without a cadre of officials.

You didn’t hear any shouting of infantile slogans at the Masters recently. They know how to run an event with decorum. It’s one thing to have the unique setting of the par-3 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where boisterousness is encouraged and the players know what’s coming. It’s quite another for that to spill into the PGA Tour or other tours on a regular basis.

The Masters has confronted the problem of overserved, abusive patrons very simply—they are out. No arguing, no second chance thanks to the tournament marshals, private security and local police who are prominently in view all around the course. To get some idea here is a statement from Augusta National on how “patrons” should act:

“The Masters Tournament is an international competition and the contestants are considered invited guests. Everyone should be treated with courtesy and respect. Patrons are expected to behave with the utmost dignity and consideration at all times. In exchange for the privilege of viewing one of golf’s greatest spectacles it is anticipated that you will act courteously and display equal encouragement to all participants. Bad manners will not be tolerated. You should be quiet when silence is required, remain stationary while a shot is being executed and adhere to instructions by officials. Players should never be accosted even if they are acquaintances. Any excessive noise or shouting (e.g. You’re the Man!, etc.) will not be tolerated and may result in dismissal. At NO time should you ever go “under the ropes” for whatever reasons — ONLY use crosswalks.”

In other words, act like an adult appreciative of the skill and talent on display.

One of the consequences of the obscene language and asinine antics of the few at tournaments will be parents making the decision it is no place to take the kids. The little ones are potentially exposed to the same or even worse in any number of ways every day, but should parents keep their children at home, not to mention themselves, attendance and interest and the Tour’s image will all suffer.

Another aspect is after the idiots have pounded down more alcohol than is rational, they then stagger to the shuttle bus to their cars for the drive home. Can you spell disaster?

Not only is this a potential problem for the individual tournaments, their sponsored charities and insurance companies but corporations with hospitality venues should be especially sensitive. Eventually they are going to be sued due to a drunken guest causing an accident and the publicity could put a damper on one of the main revenue streams for tournaments and the PGA Tour.

The ideal way to solve the problem of fans acting disrespectfully to players would to wave a magic wand and make them all grow up. Since that can’t happen, placing more stringent limits on alcohol sales and adding more paid trained security is about all we can expect. That’s sad.


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Ed Travis

Ed Travis is a national award winning golf journalist and has had a life long love affair with the game. He has competed in tournament golf both as an amateur and as a senior professional and though his competitive days are behind him he still plays regularly and carries a handicap of 2. He and his wife live in suburban Orlando.