Thursday, August 19 – First Championship Round
Most people associate professional sporting events with ecstatic fans in face paint, lots of noise, and at least one player who finds it appropriate to attack another player, a referee, or even a fan. So when the TV turns to ESPN and the announcer is describing how quiet and civilized the audience is, shouldn’t one wonder what the heck kind of game he’s talking about?
Those who haven’t been kept under a rock for their entire lives would recognize the announcer’s description as golf, the lone civilized pastime in all of professional sports. There’s an unspoken dress code that leaves all the spectators in conservative polos and khakis, polite clapping following a good shot, and no referee to attack even if the competitors were aggressive enough to do so. The most scandalous thing that can happen at a golf tournament is a player breaking a club out of frustration. Yes, that does actually happen outside the movie Happy Gilmore.
But is the silence surrounding the golfers just applying more pressure? Money is on the line every time one of them swings a golf club, and they are extremely aware of it.
The pros on the Champions Tour have been playing with this audience for most of their lives, and while some have gotten used to it others try to fill the silence themselves to get rid of the anxiety in the air.
Pressure on the players is not something that sets golf apart from other sports, but the stillness on the course is. Is this just the break that professional sporting needs from the craziness surrounding all other events? Or is it lacking what the pros need to really play the game?
“I like it loud, football stadium loud,” jokes Nic Higlin, a high school sophomore who both plays and watches the game of golf. “I’m just kidding, not that loud- but watching a silent sport gets kind of boring, and I like to get cheered on when I play sports.”
His younger brother, Max Higlin, agrees.
“As long as the spectators were being loud out of support and not booing me, I feel like it would definitely affect my golf game in a positive way,” explains Higlin.
This tension-filled silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one can tell that it does affect the players. For instance, in the pro-am and practice rounds leading up to the JELD-WEN Tradition, the professionals were approachable and easy-going. Today at the first round of the tournament, many were hurrying from one place to another, huddled with their caddies, anxiously shaking hands with the people important to this event.
“When am I most nervous about a golf tournament? Definitely not beforehand, that’s for sure. It has to sink in for me to get nervous about it,” states Bernhard Langer, a professional golfer at the JELD-WEN Tradition.
Regardless of one’s opinion on the audience of golf, it’s the individuality of the sport that makes it so interesting to report on.