Dropping Anchors In The PGA

Everybody who develops an interest in golf gets their first exposure in a particular way, and mine came from a search for a summer job.

In the spring of my 14th year, Mike McDermott at the end of the block announced to our group of friends that he was going to a caddie class at nearby Middle Bay Country Club. I tagged along, and while I quickly realized that the caddie master was using us to enjoy a few late-afternoon holes, we learned the rudiments of the game and the rules – learning how to rake bunkers and tend flags on the greens, where to stand, when to talk, and more important when not to talk.

Over time that spring and summer I learned much about the game, but never was inclined to play myself. I would get to the club by 6:45 a.m. and hoped to be selected to get a loop. The next summer I graduated to working a double, carrying two bags and the putters from the other two golfers on the cart. I learned quickly that some members took the rules far more seriously that others, and witnessed any number of high-volume disputes. I became a very occasional swinger of the clubs and play in a scramble once or twice a year.

But I love to watch good golfers, and watched with some fascination as technology began to change the game. So I was interested to watch the “belly” or anchored putter come into vogue, and now I’m anxious to see how the ban of that putting stroke will affect the top players who use it.

The PGA has announced it would adopt rule 14-1b to conform to the R&A and USGA decision. It is expected that most of the touring pros will adapt, but there is considerable speculation as to whether club players, the kind I used to caddie for, will be willing to switch back to the conventional putter. If they don’t, they will not be able to play in club championships or have an official USGA handicap. The fear is that some will just give up the game, finding it less enjoyable. But my hard-earned teenage experience also told me that those club golfers love to have something to complain about and will now have a wonderful excuse for any missed 3-footer! …

What is it about Michelle Wie and controversy? She brought more on herself when she withdrew from the U.S. Women’s Open after play was suspended with one hole for her to finish her second round. Wie clearly was going to miss the cut and invoked illness, but virtually everyone on the tour knew she didn’t want to come to the course at 7 a.m. to play one meaningless hole. While that may be understandable, it does not help Wie with her fellow pros, many of whom are resentful of her lucrative sponsorships, and maybe it doesn’t help with some of the sponsors themselves, who have stayed with Wie even as she has mostly failed to be competitive.

Wie is only 23, far too young to write off, but she would be better served to suppress her frustration and do the right things. She may not be able to play like a champion right now, but she certainly can strive to act like one.