Nick Dougherty explains why Beef Johnston is great for the game
Last Updated: 03/08/17 10:47am
Andrew "Beef" Johnston was embroiled in an unfortunate exchange on social media on the third day of The Open, and Nick Dougherty outlines why his personality and character plays a big part in promoting golf.
Beef Johnston is good for the game of golf, it's that simple. He reaches a different audience, he appeals to all types of sports fans and he's introduced new people to the game. He breaks down the barriers and busts down the stereotypes of perceptions of golfers, and it's kind of ironic that The Open is the perfect stage for Beef.
The R&A announced him on the first tee as "Beef Johnston" for the first two rounds and that's a great touch. It sets an example and it was applauded by the majority of golf fans. Many think of the R&A as stuffy and stiff upper-lipped, but they proved that is not the case this week.
Their job is not only protecting the integrity of the game of golf, they have to keep the flag flying and do everything in their power to preserve and increase the popularity of golf. The R&A have looked after the traditions of golf for so long, but they've shown this week they're prepared to move with the times and embrace a different audience.
The way they have handled Beef this week works for him, works for them and it benefits the game going forward. Nobody thought they would hear something like that on the first tee at an Open, so all credit to the R&A for embracing his character.
Beef makes the game more fun, more appealing and definitely more accessible. He's the "people's champion" in many ways, and the fans can relate to him. They want to see a normal, down-to-earth guy who enjoys his golf and a few beers afterwards.
He represents all the things that people should enjoy about golf but, at the same time, he remains very professional. Beef isn't just a great character with a big beard having fun with the fans, and just having a good time in general. It shouldn't be overlooked that he is a very, very good professional golfer.
Beef has such a big profile worldwide, so it's tough for him to have a game as big as his popularity. And if there was a world ranking for popularity, he'd be a regular in the top five!
It's still early in his career and some might feel he has a lot to prove, but you don't win on the European Tour by accident and there's no doubt the boy can play. The way he won the Spanish Open last year was incredible, on probably the toughest course of the season, and he had a great Open at Royal Troon as well.
He's got a solid all-round game, but I think it's hard for him to work his way up through the ranks because the level of expectation on him is that much higher because of his profile. His personality is amazing, so finding golf to match that is a big ask.
But he's on the climb and we need to embrace that. We certainly don't need to see what we saw kick off on social media on Saturday, that's just the sort of negative thing we need to get rid of in golf. We don't want people from outside golf trying to move the game backwards.
We've had that in the past from people inside the game, so we certainly don't want people with little knowledge of golf interfering in that way and attempting to ruin somebody's reputation.
Golf has so much to offer the younger generation in terms of integrity, work ethic and discipline and all life skills. But it can also offer huge enjoyment and, right now, Beef is having the biggest impact of all to make the game more enjoyable at all levels.
He's attracting more people through the gates, putting bums on seats, more people in front of the TV, and he's showcasing all the great things that golf can provide. In my book, Beef is as good as it gets.