The game of golf — and the people involved with it — has always ignored widespread changes to social norms for as long as possible.
But that doesn’t mean change is unacceptable.
Even Augusta National, which is the single most pristine and respected example of what the game is historically supposed to be, has undergone what shouldn’t be — but probably is in the golf world — considered radical change. Barely more than two years ago, Augusta admitted its first two female members: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, president of Rainwater Inc., a private investment company.
Was the move almost 80 years too late? Probably, but golf doesn’t run on the same road as the rest of the world.
The point is: changes — however rare — happen, and are good for the game.
So when The Telegraph’s feature writer Oliver Brown called young-gun Rickie Fowler’s new hairdo for the 2014 Ryder Cup “an exhibition of thuggish jingoism,” he broadcasted his opposition to the one thing golf must accept: reality.
All Fowler did was buzz his hair and shave the letters U-S-A just above his right ear — how revolutionary.
And it’s not like he did so in preparation for the Masters, he did it to show his patriotism ahead of an event that pits the United States against the European contingent.
Yup, that’s certainly “thuggish jingoism,” especially because it probably won’t even be visible under his trademark oversized flat-bill hat.
Let’s not forget that Fowler is the same golfer who is probably most famous because of the head-to-toe, orange-cream, Puma-sponsored outfits he’s sported throughout his career. Those outfits — especially when paired with his normally shaggy hair and questionable mustache — would have gotten Fowler laughed out of your local country club, let alone the Ryder Cup, even 10 or 15 years ago.
But Brown didn’t stop at “thuggish jingoism.” HE even went so far as to say Fowler’s hairdo was enough for a “club secretary to throw him off the premises in a heartbeat.”
Yeah, you’re right, Oliver, that would be enough if it was still 1995 and the game of golf was still shockingly unprogressive.
Fowler, in many ways, represents not only the future, but a rapidly progressing present for the game.
The new stars of the game — Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Fowler and the list goes on — are young, athletic, not always clean-cut and far from the “standards” set from the first-ever tee shot. But guess what? These are the champions of the modern game, and they will set the standard for the future of golf.
Just head out to pretty much any golf course around, you’ll more than likely come across a player dressed in a Fowler-like outfit with his same flat-bill — granted they’ll probably be the one taking 34 practice swings before shanking their drive out of bounds, but that’s beside the point.
The point is everything about golf — the ridiculously strict club rules, the accepted wardrobe, the clean-shaven expectation — is changing.
The thing people like Brown don’t understand is all of that can change without compromising the basics of the game.
Golf will forever be a classy game. That won’t be changed by three letters shaved into a 25-year-old’s head. The same expectations for etiquette and respect will always be implemented, players will still shake hands on the 18th green and pars and birdies will still be the goal.
If Brown wants to keep living behind the times of a century-worth of change, he’s welcome to. But while traditionalists like him wear knickers and swing wooden-shafted clubs, young players like Fowler, Watson and McIlroy will keep bombing drives farther than could have been fathomed 30 years ago and continue winning championships.