April 21, 2004
Golf fans gone wild!

I'm pretty sure this is a sign of the impending apocalypse: The PGA tour is concerned about obnoxious fans.

Jerry Kelly was standing over his ball at the 18th tee at TPC at Sawgrass. Last group, third round, The Players Championship. The tension was so thick, you could cut it with an unoriginal cry for attention.

Kelly was, by his guesstimate, "nanoseconds" from taking his club back to begin his swing when a scream pierced the air around PGA Tour headquarters at Ponte Vedra, Fla. "Noo-nan!!!" a man in the crowd bellowed, borrowing from Caddyshack, a movie that has been around since 1980.

"Pretty pitiful," Kelly said. "But Jacksonville fans have been fantastic to me, so I'm hoping someone is beating him up right now."


PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is intent on courting the interest -- and yes, the disposable dollars -- of mainstream fans. The tug of war between old-fashioned civility and an increasingly in-your-face society was never more clear than at the Match Play Championships at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif., in February. During the championship match against Tiger Woods, Davis Love III refused to continue playing until security ushered a heckler away.

A heckler wearing a Woods logo hat. Yelling things such as "No Love" when Woods' opponent was about to hit the ball.

Though Woods said the fan was out of line and defended Love, a debate raged. To traditionalists, Love was merely standing up for fair play and decency. To others, Love was a portrait of a spoiled, pampered example of what happens to somebody who spends too much time in a country club environment.

Do the casual fans Woods and John Daly bring to golf have any obligation to learn the accepted etiquette? Should golf go with the flow of team sports, which have a time-honored tradition of fans heckling to their lungs' content?

You can count me among the leather lungs, at least at pro and college events. (Obnoxious fans at Little League games, I trust it goes without saying, should not be tolerated.) I consider it a part of the experience.

At the 2002 Skins Game, a camera went off during Woods' backswing. Caddie Steve Williams accosted the offending photographer, took the camera and threw it in a lake. Episodes such as that, or the Love dust-up, invariably lead talking heads to ask why a baseball player can hit a 95 mph fastball in a stadium of screaming fans and a golfer chafes at the click of a camera.

"I don't think we'd have a problem with it if it were loud all the time," Woods said. "I grew up on a military base, planes flying in, especially with Desert Storm all the first year. Guns going off, it was just normal. All of a sudden you hit quiet, dead silence, and you can hear a gnat flying over it's so quiet. And anything will disturb your concentration."

And you can count me among those who wonder the same thing. I can accept Woods' explanation, except that fans who were noisy all the time would be banned anyway.

When Woods played TPC at Scottsdale in 1999, security officials had to wrestle a particular abusive fan to the ground. The inebriated fan was carrying a gun. No wonder Woods flinches when he hears a noise during his swing.

Okay, that one's over the line. Way over the line. After 9/11, you can't get into a stadium without at least a bag check, and I'd hope that after that attack on Monica Seles some years ago that tennis fans are subject to similar searches. For sure it's reasonable for the PGA to do likewise.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 21, 2004 to Other sports | TrackBack

At Yankee Stadium, the security guards make the men lift up their shirts as you enter the gates.
Of course, the last thing I want to see is a 300 pound man lift up his shirt to see his stomach.

On the other hand, the standard pat-down search and metal detector wand does not stop people in Europe from bringing fireworks to soccer matches. I was searched to such a degree one night in Paris that I thought that the security person should buy me dinner first.

An interesting contrast is in professional bowling. Before 2000, the crowd was reminded to keep quiet during a match. Now, the crowd is encouraged to make noise throughout the televised matches.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 21, 2004 7:21 PM

We went to Opening Night at the Oakland Coliseum in April 2002. We lived in the south part of San Jose and opted to take BART to the game, since there's a stop conveniently next to the stadium. We had no bags, just my purse. Only my purse was one of those backpack-style purses women often like to use. It wasn't some sort of new fashion and it wasn't a big bag.

I was stopped by the security guard outside the Coliseum and told I couldn't enter because I had a backpack. I am one of the least confrontational people on the planet, but this was my first Opening Day game. I said that it was a purse, he said it was a backpack and we went back for forth over it. Tim must have been alarmed at my reaction and asked for a supervisor. We were sent off to the side and several other women, with similar types of purses, were soon joining us. I offered to let them search my purse, but they were still bent on refusing entry to me because (get this) my purse had two straps and therefore was a backpack. If it had one strap, I'd have been OK.

After about 10 minutes and considerable disagreement, Tim noticed that the straps unhooked. He unhooked them, stuffed them in the purse, and we slipped in unnoticed.

This past weekend, having learned my fashion lesson, I took a smaller purse to the Astros game. The very nice security guard poked around in it and politely told me that next time I wouldn't be allowed to bring in the pretzels I'd tucked in my bag and sent me in the park without any problem. I still don't understand why that couldn't have been done in 2002.

Posted by: Sue on April 21, 2004 8:07 PM

I love the Mrs. Doubtfire smack on Monty.

Posted by: Chris on April 22, 2004 11:56 AM

Geez, I hate to appear snobbish or anything, but:

The product that people are paying to see at professional golf tournaments -- that is, professional-level golf -- requires an intensity of concentration that can't be achieved with people in the crowd shouting out Caddyshack lines or anyting else while players are setting up or taking shots.

It's really that simple. Do you want loudmouth fans, or do you want professional golf? Saying that the fans paid their way in, they should be able to do what they want, is ridiculous. Should baseball fans be able to rush onto the field during play? I mean, they did buy those tickets, didn't they?

Posted by: phein on April 22, 2004 6:42 PM

Do you want loudmouth fans, or do you want professional golf? Saying that the fans paid their way in, they should be able to do what they want, is ridiculous. Should baseball fans be able to rush onto the field during play? I mean, they did buy those tickets, didn't they?

Well, I'm not a golf fan, so this is more a matter of amusement than anything else to me. However, every baseball, basketball, football, and hockey game I've ever been to includes an announcement over the PA that things like entering the field of play are forbidden and will lead to ejection and arrest. In other words, the ticket you bought doesn't include that.

Cheering and heckling are a part of the experience for those sports. I find it a little odd that it's not the case with golf, that's all.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 22, 2004 8:55 PM