What would you ask the most interesting person 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.

Last week, Korean PGA Tour player Bio Kim gave the one-fingered salute to a fan whose camera went off during Kim’s backswing. Although Kim won the event and is the leading money winner on that Tour, he was assessed a small fine and suspended for three years. What’s your reaction to that suspension? Does the punishment fit the crime?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): If “suspended” means not being allowed to play for three years, that’s almost equivalent to the death penalty for stealing a packet of sugar.  Ridiculous.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t be reprimanded, but it WAS the spectator who was wrong in the first place and should have known it.  I don’t blame Kim for being angry, but he could’ve handled the situation with a little more maturity.  Suspension from one event would have been more appropriate, in my opinion.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Ridiculous that Bio Kim gets a suspension for three years, that’s a tad too much for what transpired. Love the rally behind him with the free BIO KIM hats and t-shirts. I would prefer the players conduct themselves as professionals but understand the frustration in this case. The punishment does not fit the crime in this case. I wonder what happened to the person with the itchy trigger finger on the shutter camera. Did he get a three-year suspension? A fine? Not likely.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: There’s something wrong with this whole incident. The fan wasn’t removed, and Kim gets three years. That could be his entire career. At least the penalty was made public which is a lot more than the PGA TOUR does.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): This is probably the most ludicrous suspension I’ve ever come across. Three years for flipping the bird!?! Come on! Of course, the punishment does not befit the crime. That’s a short suspension and a small fine at the very most. I feel so bad for Kim. Hopefully, some of the other pro tours’ sponsors throw some exemptions his way.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well I suppose it’s all about cultural differences, but that punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime to me.  A suspension is fair, but three years?  That’s a bit excessive.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Had Kim’s understandable response been at the Phoenix Open – where years ago at the entrance we all lined up to hand in our flip mobile devices – he would have been loudly cheered. But this is a massive cultural gap and Korea ain’t home to the ‘Go in the Hole’ yahoos or other public excesses. We may find the suspension ridiculous. I don’t think that’s the reaction on the streets of Seoul.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s hard to comprehend a culture that would mete out such harsh punishment and furthermore, have it accepted by South Koreans in general. Would a more egregious or offensive act merit the death penalty? In North America, most fans would likely laugh about an incident similar to Kim’s, and maybe the PGA Tour would fine the culprit, although we would never know. A fine and public apology should be the extent of the punishment for Kim. Anything else is way beyond the pale.

California has implemented a new law called the Fair Pay to Play Act, which starting in 2023 will allow college athletes to hire agents and earn money from endorsement deals. Other states are expected to follow. The new law is aimed squarely at NCAA rules that purport to preserve amateurs but in fact allow colleges to generate millions in revenue (from football and basketball particularly), while using unpaid student athletes. What’s your take on this law and is it likely to have a significant effect on college golf?

Deeks: I think the whole “amateur” rules are archaic, impractical and largely ignored anyway, which is too bad.  I shudder to think of college athletes hawking deodorants and beer brands, but I do agree that a system that enables their schools to reap millions off the athletes’ unpaid backs is unjustifiable.  The new rules would be acceptable if college TEAMS could be sponsored by advertisers, not individual athletes, and the sponsorship money shared by all team members.  (Fat chance of that, Jim.)

Loughry: Of all the televised college sports, golf is not near the top in terms of bringing in significant revenues in terms of endorsements. It will be interesting to see, but I highly doubt any significant endorsement deals come through (at least not compared to football or basketball). I know there are some exclusive deals struck on hard and soft goods for teams and I wonder how this will impact those. And on scholarships.

Schurman: Somehow, I never thought players weren’t being paid. Even in the ‘olden’ days players were given jobs by financially successful Alumni and basically did nothing for their money.

Kaplan: I’m all for colleges having to pay athletes for their services on the field or court and a law like this might actually pave the way there in the future. So, it’s got my support. But it does raise a few issues. One is that amateur talent will be flocking in droves to California schools if it is the only state where players can make money off their own likenesses. I think it’s more probable though that this law has a domino effect on the entirety of the NCAA because there’s going to be a major imbalance of power on the football and baseball sides going forward if California alone has this recruiting advantage. The other is more complicated. Will collegiate golfers being paid to rep endorsement deals still be allowed to keep their amateur statuses? You could make a case for either side. I’m not really sure how it will play out, but I’m eager to see how the powers that be iron out all of these kinks by 2023.

Rule: I guess it was bound to happen at some point.  It’s kind of like the Olympic athlete debate years ago. Ultimately if the sport makes money, the athletes deserve a cut.  It’s unfair that the universities rake in the millions while the athletes technically get nothing.  And most of the top college athletes will eventually get their due when they turn pro, but what if they get hurt and can’t capitalize on their potential?  I believe there needs to be at least a bit more balance.

Quinn: Attending a college football game in the US of A is a cultural and gut shock to any foreigner. Tail-gate festivities aside, 60 guys are dressed in full thousands of dollars worth of gear on each sideline. Yet, eleven are on the field for each team at any give time. For the grunts that never make it to the field in any game, this law is nothing. To the stars (every sport) heading to the pros this just means they’ll get part of their huge payoff sooner.  The millions in basketball and football revenue go to finance all other sports (that’s the law too) and the medical wing, the science labs, the libraries (for the non-scholarship jocks). Allowing some superstar players – especially basketball players who will only play one or two years in college – to collect endorsement money just further separates them from their teammates and would make the term ‘student athlete’ even more laughable. Golf? The guys are all playing with free clubs and there’s no money in college golf anyway. Ever schedule your TV time around the Final Foursome? Didn’t think so.

Mumford: The NCAA is an anachronistic blight on college sports that should have been abandoned decades ago. If this act opens the door to fair pay for student athletes, that will be a good thing. Initially it might create quite an imbalance between states that have passed similar laws and those that haven’t. I don’t think it will have much impact on college golf though because there’s just not much money around for golfers at this level. If they’re good enough to turn pro and make big bucks, off they go. If not, best to stay in school and prepare for the real world.

Who is the most interesting person in golf currently, and if given the chance to ask him or her a single question, what would it be?

Deeks: I’m not sure he’s the most interesting person, but I’d love to have lunch with NBC golf producer Tommy Roy and ask him what he would do to make men’s and women’s professional golf more dynamic and entertaining on television.  I’d also like to ask Cabot Links co-creator Ben Cowan-Dewar where his next project is going to be, so I can buy a house next door.

Loughry: Gil Hanse. I haven’t played it yet but listened to a great podcast with him talking about The Cradle, a 789-yard 9-hole short course he built in Pinehurst where the green fee is $50 and the experience apparently amazing. My question would be, why can’t we have more of these courses built NOW instead of so many giant monstrosities? I’d expect the answer to be money, as it seems the Cradle was built with a connection to all the other courses in the area, in other words is it self-sustainable on its own, in another location?

Schurman: Keith Pelley! The European Tour has seen more innovation than the R&D plant at GE. He is daring, thought-provoking and successful! The European Tour is actually becoming an international force for the PGA TOUR to consider. Look for events where the LPGA players are part of the field in a European Tour events on a regular basis.

Kaplan: Ho-Sung Choi is the most interesting person in golf, and I would ask him what his favourite balance drills are. Obviously. 🙂

Rule: Although I was never a big fan earlier in his career, I think Phil Mickelson has become one of the most interesting people in golf, even if it’s not on the golf course.  His newfound social media presence has been fun to watch, starting with that weird ball-dodging shirt commercial, and moving into his Phireside with Phil chats.  I’ll admit, I’ve been entertained!  Not sure what I’d ask him, perhaps how much he’s lost on a golf course in a single match, and did he pay?

Quinn: Over the years I’ve interviewed lots of Tour players, club pros, instructors, caddies, etc. etc. The most enjoyable, and informative, have been conversations with golf course architects. Was thinking first of wanting to talk again to Mike Keiser (Bandon Dunes et al) but then realized that it would be really special to talk to the two guys who can really go by one name — Coore Crenshaw. [Bill & Ben] I have spoken with both at length individually, but as they are such great students of the game, its history, its heritage, and now with their wonderful designs,  custodians of its future, I’d like to ask Coore Crenshaw how the professional game can move past the bomb and gouge era (aside from staging all events on their courses) as the popular game is fine, thanks in part to their designs.

Mumford: I have a strong desire to get a peek behind the curtain at PGA Tour HQ and ask who’s cheating, who’s in trouble and how did they handle it. But those guys keep a tighter lid on secrets than the people guarding the Kennedy assassination files. Therefore, I’d turn to a visionary designer like Tom Doak and ask him where golf is going in the next twenty years and what kind of course he’d design to lead the trend.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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