The familiar rap against golf is that expressions of diversity in our game are limited to wearing unconventional shades of khaki, that it’s a buttoned-up, hidebound world that stubbornly remains the preserve of white, male, affluent, conservative, Christian, heterosexual, country club Republicans with woeful fashion sense.
Admittedly, you can throw a pebble on the PGA Tour and hit someone who ticks all of those boxes — and you wouldn’t have to aim carefully — but like all stereotypes it fails to fully reflect a more nuanced reality. A visit to most golf facilities will reveal people separated by race, gender and umpteen other differences but united by a passion for the game. Golf also has diversity not so readily apparent to the naked eye.
During Pride Month, it seems as though every company and industry in the land is displaying rainbow colors, marketing that one suspects is often motivated as much by sales as solidarity. The effort to signal a more welcoming environment is increasingly, if slowly, evident in golf too. This month the PGA of America has been spotlighting gay members, and for several years has stressed that golf’s long-term health and economy demands drawing a more diverse audience.
Signs of a more progressive understanding of who plays golf aren’t limited to Pride Month. Last year, Tadd Fujikawa became the first male player of even moderate prominence to announce that he is gay. While the PGA Tour reported the news on its social media with sober detachment, the USGA tweeted this: “The best thing about golf is that it welcomes everyone to play, and play for a lifetime. Thanks, Tadd Fujikawa, for reminding us that our love of the game unites us all. Your bravery is an inspiration.”
Those stuffy blue blazers had never seemed so colorful.
The LPGA Tour has long been a welcoming ward for lesbians, but gay men are entirely invisible on the PGA Tour and only slightly less so in the broader golf universe. Invisible, but not non-existent. There are some who, for whatever personal reasons, choose not to be open about their sexuality. That’s entirely their business, but it’s not an approach I mirror. The only thing I care to hide in golf is my wretched swing, not the fact that I am gay.
Nor am I marooned in some hostile environment like Patrick Reed in a Ryder Cup locker room. There are numerous prominent figures in golf with gay children or siblings. In an interview with David Feherty a few years ago, Brandt Snedeker said he believed there were gay players on Tour. “I don’t think a gay golfer is going to be that big of a deal. It’s not going to affect my life in any way, shape or form,” he said. Golf could use more Snedekers willing to speak up for tolerance.
Someday a PGA Tour golfer will come out to the pleasant realization that what was to him a seismic announcement is considered by most everyone else to be barely worth the noting. His peers are more likely to care about whether he plays fast.
There are well-intentioned people who insist proclamations about sexuality are unnecessary, but that’s a privilege reserved for those who’ve never been presumed by society to be someone other than who they are. There’s also a rump who will glance at this epistle and frothily demand that liberal propaganda be kept out of golf, though experience unfailingly shows such people object only when the views being expressed contradict their own.
The two constituencies I cheerfully ignore are those who insist that golf is a narrow, intolerant world, and those who wish it were.
I’m often asked if my husband, Michael, plays golf. “No,” I invariably answer, “one psychopath per household is quite enough.” We will celebrate 25 years together next month, and yet his grasp of golf is still best summarized by a long-ago comment when I returned from a particularly dispiriting round notable for its abundance of lost balls and F bombs: “You think you’d have figured it out by now.”
Perhaps. I figured out some stuff, but I guess other things just take longer.
Golfweek.com, June 30, 2019.