At the Solheim Cup in Toledo earlier this month, some volunteers in the field wore Stars and Stripes cowboy hats and held signs saying “Get Loud” instead of the traditional “Quiet Please” in the direction of the crowd. A departure from normal golf etiquette to ensure that in the absence of significant European fans, locals make enough noise at key spots. Some got the news, judging by the horrific heckling and verbal abuse Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom received after putting Nelly Korda’s eagle putt at age 13.
Within seven days, the Solheim Cup drew 130,000 fans to Inverness Golf Club. The Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits next week will double that. Galleries in Wisconsin are getting louder, bigger, and, if all the signs are to be believed, a lot less polite. In fact, this could be the noisiest and most vicious edition of the tournament yet. Aside from the lack of European supporters, there is also the simple fact, as the tiresome Brooks Koepka / Bryson DeChambeau antics have demonstrated, that the standard and frequency of buck-eejitry at golf tournaments has increased in recent years. It’s not hard to imagine that in an event that often brings out the worst for the fans and, um, the players, it’s a lot worse.
The theories that explain declining standards of behavior and an increasing lack of decency surrounding tea boxes and greens are diverse. Some say it is the increased availability of beverages that drives these villains. As if, until recently, free schnapps had never been served on a course in a company tent. Others, including the PGA Tour commissioner, say the nuisance of carry-on baggage is the inevitable consequence of the sport attracting a younger population. Too many testosterone driven guys think they are at a college grid game and act accordingly.
Like Thatcher’s false generalizations that English football hooligans are all disenfranchised rag-proles and not weekend warriors for white-collar workers, the evidence suggests otherwise. Many of them shout “Get down to the bunker” or “Brooksie!”. in the middle of the swing are actually wealthy middle-aged men getting their inner lout on.
Attempts to describe this as some sort of pent-up frustration after lockdown are similarly wrong. Two years before the pandemic broke out, there was already a lengthy debate on how to tackle the growing problem of fans misbehaving at critical moments and tormenting players. Justin Thomas had a loudmouth removed at the 2018 Honda Classic for molesting him. Rory Mcllroy called for alcohol sales to be restricted after dealing with clowns who repeatedly shouted his wife’s name at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“People will argue that it happens in every other sport,” Mcllroy said. “But I would say that we are not a different sport and I think golf should be of a higher standard. I mean, the players are certainly of a higher standard than other sports, so why shouldn’t it be our fan base? “
Rory McIlroy brings it to the gallery in 2016 during his singles match against Patrick Reed. Photo: Jerry Holt / Star Tribune via Getty Images
There may be another reason that abomination is more common and tolerated. America has been brutalizing itself as a society in general since 2016. Before Donald Trump was elected, guys were not routinely seen in pickup trucks with huge flags that read “F ** k Biden” (my asterisks, not hers). This type of stuff is now considered perfectly acceptable.
The former White House resident was a serial name that acted in vulgar disparagements and celebrated bad manners. Many of the crude chaps off the ropes yelling “Babbaboey” and “Mashed Potatoes” are members of his community. He is their god, the golf course is their church and the horror is that the Ryder Cup is becoming the newest stage for them to profess their faith.
Nobody suggests they get violent, but for many of these characters, vulgar buffoons have become their default setting. And most importantly, Whistling Straits will give them the chance to drink deeply from nationalism, their toxic drink. Just looking at a stars and stripes makes the good old boys foam at the mouth. The sight of Old Glory, emblazoned on everything from golf shoes to bags and hats, could be the “Murica!” Fire.
Remember that the “Commander-in-Cheat” had not yet become President the last time a Ryder Cup was held on American soil. This country was different then, and although he is no longer in office, these are troubled and Trumpian times. You know, his supporters haven’t left, and when enough of them get to Kohler, Wisconsin, it’s not hard to imagine things getting ultra-jingoistic, unruly, and ugly.
As artificial as a sporting competition between the US and Europe may be, it is also worth noting that there are many ignoramuses in this country who regard Europe as a synonym for socialism. These true patriots will appreciate the idea that men in Stars and Stripes are fighting a “left” continent that they know little about and care less about. Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, who speak the dreaded Spanish (the language of the migrant caravan invasions!) Might be enough to trigger these poor guys.
Exactly two decades have passed since the 2001 edition of this event was canceled after September 11th. It had to be postponed because at the time, as John Hawkins wrote in Golf World magazine, “playing for Uncle Sam was putting on a pair of combat boots, not footjoys”. The concern for the week ahead is that too many Yahoos in the crowd cannot tell the difference.