By Leo Perlmutter USGTF Member Rochester, New York
One of the great things about our game is that it’s different from other sports. In fact, the differences are so great that golf might just be in a category all by itself. In golf, the players referee the game among themselves. Imagine NBA or NFL players playing without referees, and instead calling their own fouls and penalties. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that within minutes, the games would devolve into complete chaos. And yet, golf at the highest levels are largely refereed by the players, even to the point of calling penalties on themselves (at least when they are aware of them).
Baseball, football, basketball and hockey have great histories and traditions that are revered by their aficionados, but golf goes above and beyond with the reverence for the past and its customs. Go into any bookstore – at least while they still exist– and you will find in the sports section that golf has more books than any other sport. In some bookstores, the golf books almost outnumber all the other sports books combined.
As an individual sport, golf is hard to beat. Tennis is a fine game, but you need an opponent to have a match. And most people don’t take a tennis vacation to play the awesome courts that some hotel in Hawaii have, because all courts are basically the same. In golf, there are no two holes exactly alike, although several courses have replica holes from other layouts. The fresh air and sunshine, combined with pleasant scenery and friends, seem to grab hold of a golfer’s soul to an extent far more than other sports do.
The golf teaching professional plays a large part in keeping the history and traditions of the game alive, and it’s imperative that a professional have great respect for these aspects if he or she is to be successful in the profession. While we are tasked with making a living through monetary means, it doesn’t mean that the pursuit of the dollar is first and foremost among those who impart golf instruction. No, it’s well known among most successful people that if you get into a business strictly for fame or fortune, you most likely won’t last long. Or if you do, you will wind up dreading the thought of going to work, and it won’t be long before customers and clients take notice.
Golf teaching professionals are fortunate to be able to impart the lessons that they do, but they often go above and beyond just teaching the mechanics of the game. A professional who is lucky enough to establish long-term relationships with his or her students often find that they have made a true friend in that person, and share parts of each other’s lives that they wouldn’t share with just anyone.
It used to be, a long time ago, that golf professionals were seen as just the hired help and not worthy to even enter the members’ clubhouse. They were relegated strictly to the pro shop and lesson tee, and the better playing professionals were able to make some extra cash by playing in tournaments and exhibitions. But even those professionals had to know their place, and that place wasn’t among the well-heeled membership that thought they were doing the pro a favor by paying his salary.
Today, teaching professionals are highly respected members of the golf com-munity – quite a change from the days of Harry Vardon. Once the public became aware of how valuable teaching and club professionals actually were, the door to the clubhouse, and other venues, opened wide. It behooves the modern professional to remember the past, honor the traditions of the game, and contribute to the well-being of the game through actions that are befitting the profession.