There’s no doubt that administering and amending the Rules of Golf is one of the toughest jobs in the game because you know that for every action, there’s a reaction in protest and you’re not always going to be the most popular kid in class.
Over the years, I’ve had a couple of conversations with Mike Davis, now the executive director of the USGA, and found him to be extremely likeable and committed to the best interests of the game, even if I haven’t always agreed with him.
Those characteristics were illustrated recently when Davis told the Golf Channel here that the 90-day comment period on the proposed ban on anchored putting was part of a “a great process.”
It might have been mere posturing as part of an effort by golf’s governing bodies to show that they’re being open-minded on what has become an extremely volatile issue, but it was superior to the obnoxious and arrogant behaviour of his R&A counterpart Peter Dawson.
First, Dawson was quoted in several media outlets, including this story by Will Gray of the Golf Channel, that he was disappointed in the way the “campaign” was conducted, adding that it put rule-making on the “negotiating table.”
According to Dawson, the bodies in golf should be “mutually respectful of each other’s position,” but in this story in Golf Digest from Tim Rosaforte, Dawson proved that he is anything but respectful of the position taken by PGA of America president Ted Bishop.
In taking a stand against the proposed ban on anchored putting, Bishop said he was standing up for the “best interests of the amateur golfer,” Dawson responded, “That’s not your role.”
Not your role? Isn’t “know your role” a line once used by The Rock in professional wrestling? Even he got rid of it.
Turf wars between associations are nothing new in golf, but they had settled down in recent years. This incident threatens to fuel the fire again, at least on the global stage, or the most high profile stage of them all.
The governing bodies of golf extended the 90-day comment period, but after all of this, one wonders if that was intended only to be a period of mild discussion in which others might grumble, but eventually roll over for the R&A and USGA.
That hasn’t been the case, with passionate arguments being launched from both sides of the argument. Dawson has indicated the dissenters are grandstanding, but that’s so subjective. If you don’t really want opinions, then don’t hold a comment period — only have one if you truly care about people’s concerns.
Indeed, the topic has been discussed, argued and probed in the media, but did Dawson really think that the media wouldn’t have been involved anyway, even if good form prevailed and polite letters stating an opinion were quietly forwarded to the R&A and/or USGA?
All this “grandstanding” means is that the industry and golfers care as much about the game as Dawson does, even if they do think differently. Give them a chance to comment and they’ll do just that. It’s better than apathy.
Dawson may have had some legitimate concerns, but he blew it all away when he did exactly the same thing as those he accused with his own comments in the media in which he comes off as thinking he’s beyond reproach.
If this hot button issue doesn’t convince him otherwise, the all-male membership of the R&A and Muirfield will become a hot topic we progress towards the British Open and Dawson will quickly discover that, as much as he may be trying to do what’s right in his mind, golf is not a dictatorship.