Professional golf, the only major sport whose players are not unionized, has management both brisk and mysterious. Little is known about the boards that govern the sport other than the existence of a 16-member Player Advisory Council that reports to a PGA Tour Policy Board whose nine largely veiled members include four tour players plus five of impressive Corporate America lineage. It is they who internalize the professional sport's unique underpinnings: the rules of the game.
In its never-ending pledge to shine light on those dark and musty corners of troubled American contemporary life, Sidebars, in concerted and highly unconventional efforts with LeakyWiks, has invaded the hallowed halls of professional golf through intrusive efforts originally revealed more than a year ago in "Flygate." Acclaimed as the first fly-on-the-wall reportage, the journalistic breakthrough now has made possible access to golf's innermost secrets.
The scene is the board room of the Tenth of One Percent Country Club in Florida's Fruit of the Loon County. All members of the PGA Policy Board are present for the special meeting called in spite of the 2012-15 rules changes already having been voted into place.
"In opening this meeting, I'd like to offer a warm welcome to the tour board members. It seems like only yesterday that you fellows were required to enter clubs like One Tenth of One by the back door. Emancipation comes in many forms and you chaps, once considered the hired help, were early winners."
"My things have changed and I guess change is why we've gathered here. As I understand it, the public's increasing appetite for the belly putter exceeds that of our professional level where we have less stomach for it. Let me offer the observation that steady equipment improvement has been a hallmark of golf and 350 yard drives would not be possible today were we playing with Bobby Jones wooden sticks. Just as the mulligan will not be given up by once-a-week golfers, it is also true that the public welcomes the decline of scores just as baseball fans want more home runs from Alex Rodriguiz. It's all about scoring and soccer continues to struggle because of a lack of it."
"Thanks, Bubba. Well put and I'd like to follow up with a comment about another of our problems--namely, logos. As a member of the Progressive Insurance board, I seem to recall this bodacious body turning down my proposal that Flobot, one of Progresssive's intensely branded advertising weapons, be allowed to caddy for Charley Duckhook in this year's Masters."
Bod E. Orifice:
"Glad you brought that one up, Ben. That didn't sit well with my board at Gold Libertarians. Just between us, I heard a rather startling rumor that a gold consortium is coming up with a scheme to have one of the top pros painted gold before every round of the next PGA. Sort of like what Goldfinger did to that girl in the Bond film."
"Hey, now. Talk like that is as welcome as a fried egg lie in the Road Hole bunker at St. Andrews. Funny you should mention metal, though. News Corporation approached me regarding silver; something about linking me to the FOX Financial channel and becoming the Silver FOX. My agent tells me it was Stuart Varney's idea."
"Pretty strange getting anything financial out of Varney these days. He spends most of his time trying to elect Romney. Hey, is Romney a golfer?"
Bod E. Orifice:
"If he is, he's sure hiding it while criticizing Obama for playing too much of our sport which is pretty funny when you consider Ike teed it up something like 800 times while in office. I'll bet Romney's a closet golfer with a swing like Doug Sanders."
"Got it wrong, kiddo. Doug swung like he was in a phone booth."
Bod E. Orifice:
"Not so. There are closets and then there are closets. Didya hear about the hedge fund manager suing his poker pro ex-wife for a large percentage of her shoe collection valued at more than a million bucks. He didn't know she has 1,200 pair, a number big enough to require a walk-in closet that would have handled Doug's goofy swing, his caddy and the entire CBS broadcast crew."
"Let's get back to having a pro golfer painted gold like Shirley Eaton in 'Goldfinger.' How come the FOX stations have so many gold ads?"
"Well, old sport, gold is very appealing to libertarians and others of a conservative bent who buy into FOX's basic appeal to those of gloom and doom. The guns, gold and greed devotees were pretty disturbed when Glenn Beck left FOX but Rupert's people seem to have held onto the gold advertisers quite nicely."
"Yes, but it's the lustrous logos that appeal to the touring pros. Take the always exciting Jim Furyk who has a $2 million three-year deal with Johnnie Walker menswear to sport a logo on the back of his shirt collar. That's in adition to two chest logos plus one on his right sleeve. He's starting to look like a NASCAR entry."
Gentlemen. "If we've squeezed, forgive the mixed metaphor, all we can out of gold and logos, let's hit one straight down the middle and turn our attention to the belly putter. As we know, such golfers as Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley are enjoying pronounced success on the tour and some of their short stick brothers are unhappy. The subject is open for discussion."
To put it mildly, old bean, we professionals are hoist on petty petards of our own industry's creation--long putters whose functioning is centered under the chin or anchored to the belly. It seems to me we're looking at unfair advantage and a total disregard for the spirit of the game when a golfer's stomach becomes part of the putting stroke. I wonder how many majors Craig Stadler might have won had he used the belly putter? The Walrus utilizing the dunlop is a horror story beyond anything written by Stephen King."
"What in the world is a dunlop?"
"That's old timey Tom Morris talk taken from the expression: 'done lopped over your belt.'"
"Why in hell do we call it a belly putter? That's such a dumb name in obese America. Talk about bad public relations."
"It could be worse. How about the paunch putter, the bay window stick or the corporation club? Other words and phrases come to mind including gut, bread bucket and spare tire. Of course, the British would spell that last one with a y. No, let's let bad enough alone. Let's play this one as it lays."
"Who started this belly putter business?"
"Some guy named Richard T. Parmley. That was in 1965 and Phil Rodgers was the only touring pro to use it in the '60s. Not much happened until Paul Azinger took it on late in 1999. That was following a bout with cancer. His putting had been all over the place: 143rd in 1997, 111th in 1999, then 4th in 2000. Suddenly the Zinger could putt and he won the Sony Open by seven strokes. Azinger has been an inspiration."
"Bubba, you seem to have an historical perspective on the belly putter. While this board is independent of the Royal & Anncient and the USGA in regard to professional rules and conduct of our cherished athletes, I wonder if you have any wisdom to import?"
"Indeed, I do. During recent days, my agent has been checking out various plastic surgeons like the guy who has done the most work on Joan Rivers. If winning golf tournaments involves successful anchoring of the putter in my navel, then you can bet your ass my belly button will be precedent-setting in terms of being the most accommodating"