Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 12 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/3/17

Tomgram: Robert Lipsyte, Hail to the Duffer in Chief

By       (Page 2 of 2 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page. (View How Many People Read This)   No comments
Author 3598
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Tom Engelhardt
Become a Fan
  (32 fans)

An expert on the subject, ESPN investigative reporter Don Van Natta, Jr., wrote in his 2003 book, First Off the Tee, that, despite his bad back, John F. Kennedy was the best presidential golfer. Kennedy, however, felt he had to sneak off to play because, while campaigning, he had relentlessly derided Ike for golfing too much, calling him "the Duffer-in-Chief." (Sound familiar?) In the end, Kennedy had to own up to his golfing habit, given rumors that his unexplained absences were not due to playing a round, but playing around.

Bill Clinton tops the "hail to the cheats" section of Van Natta's book, with Richard Nixon, Warren Harding, and Lyndon Johnson trailing behind. Having played with Clinton and granted him many "Billigans" (that is, "mulligans," or replays of bad shots with no penalties), Van Natta wrote: "He followed the rules for about a hole and a half. Then he let down his guard and started taking these do-over shots, gimme putts and, at the end of the 18 holes, it took him about 200 swings to score an 82."

Soon after the 2016 election, Golf Digest anointed Trump the all-time top presidential golfer, citing his low handicap and passion for the game. While still a college junior, he began playing at a public course near Philadelphia that he claimed was teeming with "more hustlers than any place I've seen to this day." By his account, he learned a lot about gambling from golf, thinks of the sport as "aspirational," and considers it a mistake to try to sell it as an everyman's game. After all, people should be trying harder to get rich in order to join great golf clubs like his and earn their way onto the course and into the proud sport of the one-percenters.

Arnold ("The King") and Tiger ("The Chosen One")

The creation myths of golf are murky, but it seems that the modern game took root and was codified in Scotland by the seventeenth century. It wasn't until the late nineteenth century, however, that it became a fixture in American sports. By the Depression, there were more than 1,000 golf clubs in the country and one of the reigning sports superstars of the Roaring Twenties was Bobby Jones, a lawyer revered by the media and the masses both for being a southern gentleman and an amateur in a SportsWorld that was increasingly turning pro. Jones founded and helped design the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and its most famous event, the Masters Tournament, which became the High Holy Days of the Church of Golf.

That club managed to keep black golfers off its course until 1975 when Lee Elder qualified for the Masters and had to be allowed to play. (That was the year the Justice Department and the Trump family business -- of which The Donald was by then president -- settled a lawsuit over discrimination in its New York rental properties.) There would be no black members at the Augusta club until 1990 and no women members until 2012 when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited in.

That was ten years after a feminist activist, Martha Burke, called the male-only policy "sexist." At the time, club chairman William "Hootie" Johnson declared that the "moral and legal rights" of a private club trumped any concerns over sexism and civil rights. In the controversy that followed, CBS broadcast the 2003 and 2004 tournaments without commercials. The Masters was that important to the network and Augusta was that rich. The sport of plutocrats indeed.

By that time, Tiger Woods, "the Chosen One," had replaced Arnold Palmer, "the King," as the TV presence who would make golf great again. In the 1950s and 1960s, Palmer, the handsome, charming son of a Pennsylvania golf club groundskeeper, was the leading man in the process of making golf spectatorship, if not actual participation, a national phenomenon. Palmer, who died last September, was present in 2015, along with The Donald, daughter Ivanka, and son Eric, for the unveiling of the Arnold Palmer Villa, one of eight deluxe guestrooms at the Trump National Doral Miami.

Palmer had by then long been replaced as America's favorite golfer by Woods, the mixed-race son of an Army colonel who groomed him for his golfing future from tot-hood. Tiger was, arguably, the best golfer ever as well as one of the greatest product endorsers in all of sports. As surly as Palmer was convivial, he was protected by the golf and sports media, being its bread-and-butter, until his post-2009 decline, which seemed to be as much about a lifetime of emotional constriction and overload as his tawdry infidelity, one-car crash, divorce, and bad back.

That didn't stop Trump from inviting him for an extended visit. Last December, at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, Tiger played a round with the President-elect, writing on his blog, "What most impressed me was how far he hits the ball at 70 years old. He takes a pretty good lash. Our discussion topics were wide-ranging; it was fun. We both enjoyed the bantering, bickering, and needling."

Trump is reportedly an accomplished on-course trash talker, who likes to mock his male golfing partners by telling them that they should be hitting from the women's tees. Luckily for Tiger, with all his other problems, he's not working on any Trump golf courses, where contractors are still getting stiffed. Just recently, a South Florida judge ordered Trump Endeavor, one of his Florida corporations, to pay a Miami paint store $282,950 for work done two years ago on that Doral course with its Arnold Palmer Villa. Trump had held back payment of $34,863 on a $200,000 job. Penalties add up. (Trump should, in fact, be credited for his lifelong efforts to increase American inequality, not just via the game of golf, but by stiffing, or underpaying, every kind of worker he's ever hired -- from waiters, bartenders, and small businesspeople to undocumented laborers.)

Meanwhile, we await the Trump train wreck, an inevitable outcome of the president's rich-boy sense of entitlement, his jock culture need for domination, and the sad (Sad!) reality of his incompetence as a human being.

Poor Donald. Evidently nobody told him that no man can drive onto the greens, not even the plutocrat who owns them. It's part of the DNA of the reactionary rich. So he jumped the shark, screwed the pooch. The customs of golf, like the practices of any gaudy, useless, swollen sect, are all that hold it together.

Robert Lipsyte, author of the memoir An Accidental Sportswriter, is the jock culture correspondent for TomDispatch .

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2017 Robert Lipsyte

Next Page  1  |  2

 

Rate It | View Ratings

Tom Engelhardt Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

Related Topic(s): , Add Tags
Add to My Group(s)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Uncovering the Military's Secret Military

Noam Chomsky: A Rebellious World or a New Dark Age?

Andy Kroll: Flat-Lining the Middle Class

Christian Parenti: Big Storms Require Big Government

Noam Chomsky, Who Owns the World?

Rebecca Solnit: Why the Media Loves the Violence of Protestors and Not of Banks

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: