In the July 7 GOLF PLUS the Big Play featured Mitchell Spearman,
an instructor at Manhattan Woods in West Nyack, N.Y. Spearman
made the serious allegation that on "any given week, up to a
quarter of the field could have illegal drivers, and I believe
that some players use hot balls."
Free speech is a wonderful thing. However, making inflammatory
accusations without producing one iota of evidence is both
reckless and irresponsible. The issue here is not Mr. Spearman's
credibility on this subject, because clearly he has none. He is
not a member of the PGA Tour, he is not a manufacturer, and he
has not tested the equipment of every Tour member. The issue is
why a leading publication like SPORTS ILLUSTRATED would provide a
forum for slanderous allegations with no supporting evidence.
Unfortunately, GOLF PLUS is not alone in its antitechnology
reporting. The print and electronic media have promoted a
technophobic agenda since the start of the season, featuring such
tabloid-ready headlines as THE WEAPONS RACE, BAN THIS BALL OR
ELS, GOING THE DISTANCE WITH SOUPED-UP GOLF BALLS and COOLING HOT
DRIVERS. The 24-hour Golf Channel contributes to the hysteria by
allowing selected talent to spew one-sided antitechnology
commentary and conduct "leading-the-witness" interviews.
The problem with all of this is that it can result in
ill-conceived policy. In its position paper on equipment, the PGA
Tour says that the "increased distance by today's elite players
has proven to be problematical." Among the reasons cited is "an
increasing media and fan perception that excellent play by
today's professionals is more a result of technology than skill
or athleticism." Elsewhere in the document it says that "to the
extent golf ball distance continues to increase and/or the
perception of the media and the public relative to distance
becomes more negative ... the PGA Tour should further consider
whether additional rule modifications are desirable."
July 27, 2003
Media and fan perceptions are unlikely to change as long as
golf's Fourth Estate continues to distort the news and default on
its obligation to be objective. If the Tour is serious about
monitoring fan perception and using the feedback to affect policy
going forward, then it needs to hold the media to a higher
standard of balance than what is being practiced today.
Wally Uihlein is the chairman and CEO of the Acushnet Company.