Players rallying to lift the mood is great for golf, says David Livingstone
"With a few modifications like no flagsticks and raised cups to avoid having to pick the ball out of the hole, golfers all over the world are still enjoying their good walk spoiled."
Last Updated: 20/03/20 9:54am
With world golf in virtual lockdown, David Livingstone has welcomed the charitable nature of Billy Horschel and calls for more players to keep us entertained during an unfortunate hiatus ...
Modern sport rarely comes across a problem it can't solve with money, but these are different times. A year on from Tiger Woods giving the Masters a fairy-tale ending, the Masters of the Universe down Magnolia Lane are powerless in the face of an unfolding horror story.
What's more, they're having to rely on the goodwill of others to avoid a forgotten year. So too are the organisations responsible for growing the Ryder Cup into a sporting gem, undamaged by anything outside of 9/11 and World War Two.
And that's before we even begin to talk about the Open Championship, The US Open, and the already-postponed PGA Championship. All around the world, anyone with a Tour or a tournament to run is watching and waiting, trying to be busy and constructive but also keeping a sense of perspective about what's happening in the real world.
That's a difficult balance to find and it's one that caused PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan several sleepless nights in the week of The Players Championship. Even some of his own Tour players accused him of being tone deaf to what was happening outside the Sawgrass bubble when Monahan dithered about calling the event off before actually doing so.
In his defence he's probably one of a number of public figures around the world who've had to make decisions based on medical opinion and then take the flak when things go wrong.
In any case, Mr Monahan certainly snatched one major victory from a defeated Players Championship when he diverted all the unused food from the tournament to a local charity.
Florida native Billy Horschel was a willing volunteer to represent the Tour players and help load food into refrigerated trucks which were then sent to distribution points for Feeding NorthEast Florida, a charity which Horschel is a proud ambassador of.
And, to his eternal credit, Horschel donated $20,000 of his $52,000 earnings from the abandoned Sawgrass showpiece to the Feeding NorthEast Florida cause. In the last five years, Horschel has now donated over $115,000 to the organisation thanks to his annual #DriveOutHunger campaign when The Players rolls into town.
There seems also to be a question of basic decency in how it looks to be out enjoying a day on the golf course when so many people are suffering and when staff at the club may be at risk
Ready-prepared meals fed homeless and at-risk people in Jacksonville for the whole weekend and refrigerated food provided lunches for a week. In what must have been a cathartic moment for Commissioner Monahan after a torrid week, he donned a hair net, gloves, and an apron and joined volunteers to serve lunches on Saturday and Sunday.
It was an uplifting story in difficult times and it made me wonder what the spirit of golf can do to offer some positivity in the midst of all the gloom.
Certainly, the game is still being played by many who continue to see the game as a healthy outdoor pursuit that may well be the safest sport of any in the face of current concerns. With a few modifications like no flagsticks and raised cups to avoid having to pick the ball out of the hole, golfers all over the world are still enjoying their good walk spoiled.
What tournaments are off?
Details of all the tournaments worldwide that have been postponed or cancelled
Social distancing is most easily accommodated by pairing slicers with hookers. Admittedly, there are serious concerns for the staff who keep the courses running and certainly busy driving ranges are being forced to consider closing down.
There seems also to be a question of basic decency in how it looks to be out enjoying a day on the golf course when so many people are suffering and when staff at the club may be at risk.
It's just one of the many difficult personal choices we have to make at the moment but, for what it's worth, I don't think anyone should be castigated for enjoying a round of golf, especially if it's helping clubs stay in business and allowing staff to keep working if they're happy to do so.
There seem to be no issues of conscience in the lower reaches of professional golf where mini tours continue to thrive all over Britain and the United States. These are self-funded events where the prize funds are made up from entry fees.
But what about the big boys at the top of the golfing world who are forever telling us they'd like more time off? Well, they have it now and judging from social media they're enjoying themselves.
Several European Tour players seem to be focused on some kind of toilet roll challenge which is probably not the greatest example of social awareness. A number of American players, including Phil Mickelson, are reporting on what's winning between the gym and the couch and the latter seems to be well on top.
An enterprising Korn Ferry Tour player, Conrad Shindler, is offering $20 video lessons, so look out Butch Harmon. Another pro with a view to betterment, Houston Open champion Lanto Griffin, is tackling four books recommended by Rory McIlroy. I won't give you the titles but, rest assured, it's a tough examination paper.
But the best news came from the very top of the game because Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are really having a blast…playing golf. In fact, Rickie just missed out on shooting 59 when they played in South Florida.
My hope is that these two can persuade other residents of that Hobe Sound/Jupiter/Palm Beach area to get involved too. Let's see, there's Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson for starters. Maybe even call in Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus and give them decent handicaps.
They could pick a couple of teams, play in two-balls carrying their own bags and there you have it - an instant Premier Golf League.
If they all get their phones working on their best video there would be enough material to send to the wizards at Golf Channel and SkySports. With a bit of commentary and crowd effects we'd have the free Masters week all taken care of.
Just a thought guys. Tongue-in-cheek perhaps but just think of the fun you could have and the money it could generate for some of the folks who are suffering.