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Should the PGA Tour Ban Alcohol Sales at its Events?

The behavior of some unruly fans have John Hawkins and Mike Purkey wondering if it's time to ban the booze at PGA Tour events.
Hawk and Purk Podcast

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Should the PGA Tour ban alcohol sales at its events?

Hawk's take: Let’s not shut down every beer tap on the grounds because a few dozen patrons made too many visits to the concession stand. There are thousands of responsible drinkers at every tournament who react enthusiastically and positively to the performances of the world’s best golfers. Why penalize them to eliminate the effect of an overwhelming minority?

Before PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan starts ejecting unruly spectators, who may or may not be drunk, perhaps the Tour should consider fortifying its security forces outside the ropes. There are marshals stationed at every green and tee on the course, most of whom do little more than ask for quiet. If gallery decorum is truly becoming a problem, why not insist that local police departments provide a greater presence among the masses?

It may not be an answer, but it surely would serve as a deterrent.

Purk’s take: I’m all in favor of drinking. It’s a social lubricant and is in the center of all manner of good times — for those who do it responsibly. Those who don’t — and you know who they are — will invariably blow up a lot of other people’s chance at having fun. They are the ruin-ers.

A seemingly growing number of those are allowed through the gates at PGA Tour events every week. The problem is they can’t be identified before they come onto the grounds. We don’t find until the first “get in the hole” is yelled or a player is mercilessly heckled. By then, it’s too late.

Tournaments have no effective means of controlling who gets alcohol or how much they consume. I don’t want to penalize everyone for the misbehavior of a few but it’s time to stop selling alcohol at Tour events. The problems it creates are becoming much more difficult to solve.

Is a golf tournament more fun with a couple of pops? That’s up to you. Can you have a good time at a tournament without alcohol? If you can’t, maybe there are some other questions you should ask yourself.

Was the gallery behavior directed at Bryson DeChambeau last week more a case of unacceptable crowd conduct—or a player getting what he deserves?

Hawk's take: First of all, a spectator who addresses DeChambeau as “Brooksie” is not heckling him, per se. Have you ever attended a men’s basketball game at Duke University? Secondly, Monahan has a lot of nerve, defending a player with a history of being disrespectful to others, including his fellow competitors. What happened in Baltimore was an unfortunate situation spurred by the consistent, long-term arrogance of DeChambeau himself.

You stick a target on your own back, some people will fire at it.

This is also another instance of how the Bryson-Brooks Koepka feud comes with negative ramifications. What is it we’re searching for here? A completely sanitized, subservient crowd environment? Lousy NFL teams get booed all the time by their fed-up fans. Major League starters who can’t make it past the third inning hear the loud chorus of disapproval on that downtrodden walk to the dugout.

We can say pro golf is different, but it really isn’t anymore. On one Sunday afternoon/evening, Bryson DeChambeau became a casualty of his own self-induced persona. Honestly, does that make him a victim?

Purk’s take: Unfortunately, hecklers are nothing new. Nearly 60 years ago, a number of unruly partisans cheered Jack Nicklaus’ every missed shot and he was called “Whale Boy” and “Ohio Fats” by fans of Arnold Palmer during their playoff at the U.S. Open at Oakmont CC in 1962. Despite the shocking and shameful treatment, Nicklaus won the playoff and the first of his 18 major championships.

Nicklaus never once complained in public and never asked for anyone to be removed from the gallery, although he would have had every right to do so. He held his head high and just kept winning, which shuts up a lot of would-be verbal assailants.

Nothing about heckling makes it right or justified. Golf fans are supposed to be above the kind of sophomoric stunts that only serve to make the perpetrator look stupid. No one, not even Patrick Reed or Bryson DeChambeau deserves to hear the kind of abuse hurled their way, no matter how you feel about what they’ve said or done. If you don’t like them, there are a few dozen other players you can go watch.

Golf is about dignity and respect, not a social media war of vile words. If the PGA Tour wants to boot the hecklers, start kicking. And don’t let them on the courtesy shuttle. Make ‘em walk to the parking lot.