This Week in Golf

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Gary Player turned 80 on Sunday and continues to travel the world playing and delivering his personal recipe for health and well being. Does his message resonate with younger people and do you have a favourite Gary Player story?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I suspect Gary’s obsession with health and fitness resonates more with today’s young people than it did one and two generations ago, not that many young people know or care about Gary Player. While I’ve tried to be health conscious in my lifetime, Gary was always a little too pure and intense for me. But I admire the guy immensely, both for his game and his courage to have been so far ahead of his time. Too bad his trousers with one white leg and one black leg never caught on… maybe they will in the 22nd Century.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Everybody would be wise to heed Gary’s message about nutrition and fitness but like most good advice, it’s often ignored until it’s too late. Back in the late 90’s, I was marshalling the 12th green and 13th tee at St. George’s during a practice round for the Senior Tour AT&T Classic. I was standing by myself behind the green when Gary’s group came through. He hit to the very small, sloped putting surface, then stayed there hitting chips and putts from several different angles. Afterwards, he came over, introduced himself and started talking about course design and how the old style courses were still relevant. His playing partners were finished the par-3 13th by the time Gary decided he’d better catch up with them.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Let me start by saying that Gary Player is adorable and so is Arnold Palmer. I love when the two of them are together. Player is in such good shape at 80 that EVERYONE would be wise to listen to him. But I am an idiot who barely stretches before my tee time. I don’t think his message resonates with me and my friends, but I would be surprised if some of the younger players on the tour have not been directly influenced by his advice. My favourite Player story is when he was practicing his bunker game at Pinehurst last year on the range … just hitting shots, calling out “there it is” and watching the ball roll in to the hole. I hope I’m half that classy at 80.

Frank Mastroianni, Canadian Golf Magazine (@frank_mastro): No. As much as I respect Gary Player for his knowledge of the game and what he’s done for golf, no one who falls into the “younger people” category could care less for what he has to say. I know that might hurt the purists out there but it is what it is. I don’t have many stories, but I should credit him for convincing me it’s okay to hit an 8-iron out of greenside bunkers after watching him on Golf Channel one time as a junior and for solving my issue of what to buy my father as a stocking stuffer for Christmas one year – his DVD!

Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): I like Gary overall, he has a good message – stay healthy through exercise and proper nutrition. I do find him a little over the top once in a while though including his comments this past summer about the US Open and the game. I met him at his Alaqua course in the early 90’s. It was a quick meeting, he didn’t say too much, but he did offer advice on his course, “Try to avoid the water”. I managed a fair score while visiting the water only on one hole (there is water on 15 of the 18 holes). Thanks Gary!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I think the kids have definitely got the message, whether directly from the Black Knight or not. He was the first fit golfer. The fitness levels and the golf specific drills the kids do now — and these are kids just hoping to be considered for scholarships — must make him proud. I got in touch with him a few years back via phone. He was in Florida. I was calling about a Gary Player Design two-course project in Cranbrook, BC, that a few months later crashed and burned and became a one-course Black Knight Design deal. He was very gracious, but apologized that he just had a few minutes as he was in charge of babysitting his grandson and had to get him to bed. But once we got past the project and started talking about golf in general and life its own self, Grandpa Player took to quieting the little tyke, pausing to get him something to play with, something to eat etc. We talked for a couple of hours. He asked as many questions about me and my up bringing and life as I did about his. It was great. Don’t think the babysitter earned a tip that night.

The Brat Pack struck again on Sunday with 22-year old Justin Thomas winning the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur. Including victories this season by Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufmann and last season by Jordan Spieth (2), Jason Day (2) and Rickie Fowler, the last time anyone over the age of 27 won on Tour was back in August and that was 51-year old Davis Love at the Wyndham Championship. Do players in their 30’s and 40’s have to change their game or their attitude to win now or has time passed them by?

Loughry: My personal theory is that this is part of the Tiger effect. These young guys learned a different brand of golf, BLAST IT, FIND IT, PUTT IT in the hole, and they got to do this with all the new technology, so there are no adjustments needed. The “older” guys would have course knowledge on their side, and I still think that’s a bit of an advantage but not nearly as much as it used to be. In that respect, time has passed some of them by.

Mastroianni: Time has passed them by. It’s time to pack it up and lump around until Champions Tour comes a callin’. Start a golf design business, get in the booth, make charitable appearances, purchase an RV and coast. It’s hard to let go of the spotlight sometimes but what’s the point of spoiling our fun and taking the odd win away from our young guns? Time to fade into the sunset you stubborn 30 something, good for nothing has-been’s. And yeah, I’m talking to you Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson and especially you Jim Furyk.

Quinn: Pretty amazing that the last four have been won by guys under 24, that the ladies number 1 is 18, and that rookie Sei Young Kim has won three times this season. Funny that Adam Scott (35) set out to show the kids something with his final round 63 and still lost. I think the old girls and the old guys like Scott are in tougher than any 30 and 40 something’s in golf history. Hard to know if the kids can keep it up (or given the prize money, even want to), or what the heck the oldies can do about it, but it’s going to be fun watching it play out.

Kaplan: They are doomed. The Champions Tour should start at age 30 now.

Deeks: More young guys will be winning from now on, just because the depth of talent keeps increasing every year as each new cohort graduates. But that doesn’t mean the Zach Johnsons and Adam Scotts are done… far from it.

Mumford: It must be terribly frustrating for the older players who were told they have to be patient, learn the courses, then their turn will come. I think for many of them, they watched Tiger win all the time and lost confidence that they could nab a few titles too. Now it’s too late, their belief system is eroded and most of them have more money than they ever thought possible (also thanks to Tiger). Grabbing a share of a big purse each week is a pretty nice living but not the kind of career they envisioned when they were the young guns.

John Peterson used a Happy Gilmore type swing at the CIMB Classic on Sunday. He was in last place and having a bit of fun but it may lead to punishment from the PGA Tour. Purists think that kind of stunt has no place in the game but Peterson is trending on Twitter and younger players love the fact that players can be entertainers too. Do you think it’s OK or should Peterson be fined for his antics?

Deeks: He shouldn’t be fined for having a little fun, but he should be spoken to, and other players should be discouraged from these kinds of antics, well-intentioned as they may be. I remember being dismayed when John Daly made a mockery of the Canadian Skins Game by teeing off with a putter and other asinine stunts. Yes, it was a made-for-TV exhibition, but the players were invited to compete, not act like sideshow clowns. Save the trick shots for the driving range and the Pro-Am clinics.

Mumford: Hooray for John Peterson! The suits in Ponte Vedra might be disgruntled by his Happy Gilmore but they just have to look at the Twittersphere to see how much response it got. If they’re serious about growing the game and attracting a younger audience, they have to loosen up a bit and allow more room for colourful personalities to do their thing without fear of fines and suspensions.

Mastroianni: I have no problem with the Happy Gilmore John Peterson pulled at the CIMB and think the PGA TOUR should be fined for their antics if anyone in that organization had any issue with even a second of it. The PGA TOUR is often as out of touch with today’s golf fan as Gary Player and the 30 and 40-year old’s who think they can compete on the pro tour are all of the time. It’s time we move onward and upwards, and by that I mean new and younger. 😉

Quinn: I don’t think Peterson would have made like Happy if he wasn’t deep in a Malaysian jungle. But it was the first tee and he was conceding finishing last (even though he ended up shooting 66 and making $13,020) so it was more disrespectful of his fellow competitors and the event sponsors than it was funny. If it was a significant event Stateside, he’d be fined.

Loughry: This could be the most useless use of time the Tour spends. If their concern is how he makes contact with the ball, good luck. I’m certain they have far more serious concerns over conduct out on Tour. I’m trying to think who this harms, and at the same time it’s trending on Twitter. If they do punish him, expect some additional PR issues for the Tour and how asinine it is.

Kaplan: Only Tim Finchem and Roger Goodell would have a problem with what Peterson did. He pulled off a 3/4 Happy Gilmore swing in tournament play while the announcer was still calling out his name on the tee. He may have pooched the drive, but it fired him up and got him out of his funk. Plus, it went viral – instantly. Stunts like that generate hype and interest from the types of markets that the PGA Tour is looking to attract. Make no mistake: we are currently living in the Twitter and Instagram age. If the PGA Tour ever figures that out, the sky is the limit for how popular this game could actually become.

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