Golf? Who can learn anything from golf?

Mark Twain famously said that golf was “a good walk spoiled.” Some say the game is called “golf” because all the other four letter words were taken.

But there is much to recommend it, and no one did that with more humor than P. G. Wodehouse. “Plum,” as he was known to his friends, was one of the greatest comedy writers of all time, if not the greatest. Here are a couple of quotes by him on golf.

Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.

And so (said the Oldest Member)… while there is nothing to be said definitely against love, your golfer should be extremely careful how he indulges in it. It may improve his game or it may not. Love has had a lot of press-agenting from the oldest times, but there are higher, nobler things than love. A woman is only a woman, but a hefty drive is a slosh.

On a slightly more inspirational note, there is this from the amazing Arnold Palmer.

Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening — and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.

The greatest

I’m sure there are those who would argue the “greatest game” status with Mr. Palmer. But I’ve been around golf a long time now and here is something I’ve noticed.

A lot of professional athletes from other sports are drawn to golf. I personally know professionals (and one or two current pros), from baseball, football, ice hockey, and tennis who can’t get enough of it.

One afternoon I ran into a former number 7 in the world (!) tennis pro — also former number 1 in the world in doubles — at a driving range. We knew each other a little, and I stopped to chat with him. “Which is more satisfying,” I asked, “serving an ace or hitting a drive exactly the way you want?”

“That’s easy. I’d rather hit the drive.” I asked why, and he said, “An ace is over in less than 2 seconds. I can watch a golf ball fly for almost 8 seconds. There is nothing like it in tennis.”

Golf is, in fact, a beautiful game that is played in beautiful places. However, that is only part of what makes it, well, beautiful. Another factor, one not named by Mr. Palmer, is that golf embodies something often used as a political term: meritocracy.

The U. S. Open Golf tournament

You may not be familiar with the word “meritocracy,” so here’s a definition. Meritocracy is “government — or the holding of position — by people selected on the basis of their ability.”

You have seen meritocracy in real life, even if you didn’t know the word. At a Super Bowl, for instance, you may have seen a “fly-over” by the Blue Angels (Navy) or Thunderbirds (Air Force). Not a single one of those planes was piloted by a rookie. Every pilot was selected on the basis of his or her skill and ability, and that is meritocracy.

Others applied for the job. Still more wanted to, and thousands have dreamed of flying with an elite team. Very few make the grade.

On the football field underneath those pilots were professional athletes of another kind. Meritocracy got them there. Ah, but golf.…

The United States Golf Association runs many tournaments every year. The one in the headline of this paragraph is the granddaddy of them all. It was first played October 4, 1895, and completed in one day. Now, almost 130 years later, it takes several weeks just to identify the field of 156 players.

And here is where meritocracy can be seen in golf.

Anyone, male or female, who has an “index” of 1.4 or better can enter the U. S. Open. (“Open” means both amateurs and professionals may compete.) This year, more than 10,000 players sent in entry forms from all over the world.

Of those, 9,522 had to play in local qualifying, but only 530 advanced. The final qualifier included those 530 along with 407 professionals and elite amateurs. That means 937 golfers teed it up in 13 locations, each playing for one of 68 spots. Wow.

And? Plus some good news.

The final qualifying day for the U. S. Open is called The Longest Day of Golf because everyone plays 36 holes in one day, all across the country. Some established champions didn’t qualify. Some unknowns did. Meritocracy prevailed.

It has been argued that political leaders, like golfers and pilots, should be chosen by meritocracy. In other words, the people most able to govern should govern.

That often happens in business. With the possible exception of Mayberry with Sheriff Taylor, it has rarely happened in government.

Meritocracy is not a fan favorite of progressives. Black Lives Matter has said it is high on their hit list. One reason it is disliked is that it favors those who have skills that are rarely taught, especially in public schools. Skills like leadership, critical thinking, diplomacy, and communication are missing today. All of those are accessible to and can be mastered by both young men and young women whether rich or poor.

Instead of critical thinking, students are learning ideology. Rather than diplomacy they are learning protest. Even college students seem not to know that cardboard signs with slogans of hate, accompanied by mindless chants, do not qualify as communication.

The good news is that at Do Good U we’re getting more and more requests to help high school and college students learn leadership. Young people — and many coaches — know that meritocracy is both good and useful when properly applied.

Those students want to rise up, not in protest but in ability. And that is very good indeed.

Do good! It’s in you.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Patrick Fleming

    Lewis, Very well done and points are important to expand. Cardboard signs in college campuses is a sign of being indoctrinate
    and lead by the wrong people. Only sorry parents pay thousands of dollars to have their child used for an organization
    that wants to ruin our country.
    Thanks for your insights

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