The influence of the media, referees, and non-athletes in sports is well documented. They seem able to set the stage for success and failures. Each year conspiracy theorists examine, dissect, and over-analyze sporting events to determine if they can find an hints of wrong doing. I guess this years Masters will be the same!
The penalty for slow play against the Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old, grade 8 player from China, who made the cut anyway, has caught the attention of everyone. A statement, in The Guardian, by rules officials stated that his age did not matter. I would have to agree with that statement. He obviously has the game to play at the Masters, so he must play by all the rules. Whether the rules are applied equally is the real topic of conversation of most analysts.
At Dimplehead.com, David Duval took a swing a quite a few slow players who never get assessed slow play penalties. Additionally the article suggests; “in the often chummy relationship between golf announcers and players there is no identifying slow players on broadcasts. Often slow players are termed “deliberate” as if they are more thoughtful because they take their time in playing their shot.”
The Vancouver Sun, The Independent, and Golf.com at Sports Illustrated all have interesting views on the situation. Ultimately, the one-stroke penalty was assessed and Guan made the cut. Like it or not, although the commentators will talk about this all weekend, it is in the books and we can move on…..or can we?
Professional golf is a team sport. Yes, you heard me, a team sport. Of course the golfer is the focal point, but there is always that guy in the background providing advice, clubs, water, telling the crowd to calm down or just encouraging his player to succeed. Of course, like a pit crew in auto racing, they are the behind the scene masters who are extremely important to ant pro golfers success.
So where was Guan’s caddie, Brian Tam, during this whole affair? There is a reason professional caddies are paid well; they are relied upon to bring so much to the game. It affords the professional, or in this case the amateur, the time to focus on shot making, not worrying about their clubs, trying to figure out distances, helping with the player’s swing, reading the course conditions or worrying about being on the clock! Is it possible that Guan’s caddie lost track of time as well? Is it possible that both were so focused on the wind conditions that everything else was irrelevant? Nonetheless, I would suggest that Guan’s caddie may have to take some responsibility for the slow play penalty.
A professional golf caddie is critical to the success of a professional golfer. They offer so many facets to the game that are not measurable. If you think they are not important, ask players like Phil Mickelson who have hand the same caddie since 1992. I am sure Phil would say he owes much of his success to long time caddie and friend Jim “Bones” Mackay. The professional caddie is a friend, peer, mentor, swing analyst, body-guard and sometimes butt-kicker. A importance does enter the spotlight each year at the HSBC Caddie of the Year awards. It is a fun night every year where caddies place votes to recognize their peers. Overall, caddies are an integral part of professional golf and should be recognized for their contributions to the game.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links.