Saturday, February 2, 2008

I appreciate golf

I think I've said before how much I love golf, and that I am sometimes sheepish about my fondness for this game because for so long I thought of it as a racist, sexist, homophobic, elitist, and un-environmentally friendly institution.

But then two things happened.

1) Tiger Woods made a huge splash in the world of golf

(look at all those people with umbrellas lined up just to see this man whack a golf ball).

Tiger literally changed the face of golf. I'm not saying that golf became this all-inclusive game, but his presence, a splash of color in a largely white sea of golfers (although let us not forget Vijay Singh and KJ Choi and a few others) has definitely increased the attention that people of color have both paid to the sport and that others within golf pay to issues of race.

2) I started to actually play the game. I moved South where golf is both abundant and cheap due to the more temperate weather. And there's nothing like that feeling on the tee box when you wind up and hit the driver and your club face makes contact with that little white ball in the sweet spot and you hear it go "THWACK!" and you see it sail straight and true and you just watch it and feel....great! Or when you are on the green and you line up your putt and the ball rolls in from 10's a magical feeling. And for me, because I don't keep score, it's just something I get to be zen about--I play not to improve myself or to be competitive with anyone else. I play because it feels good, to me, to hit the ball, and if it goes too far to the left or right, I pick it up and throw it on the fairway and keep playing.

Some of my best golf days are just me, my clubs, and walking the fairways all by myself.


Jason Clinkscales said...

My golf experience is limited to almost destroying my left side on the driving range last spring and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles miniature golf set my dad got me for Christmas when I was eight. Obviously, I need to hit the links.

Speaking of links, I tried looking for an article in Yahoo! Sports that wondered why the sport hasn't really seen a influx of minority stars since Tiger hit the scene in 1996. However, this is the closest thing I can find that may be of interest. That is, if you haven't found enough stuff about it.

Jennifer said...

Hi Jason,
Thanks for the article about Tiger--I think I had read something similar back when he was playing the Masters (about a year ago since it was the 10 year anniversary of him turning pro and taking the world by storm and winning the Masters by the largest margin EVER). It does seem odd...not sure what to make of it. Of course, it has always seemed odd to me that there weren't more Asian American professional athletes (outside of figure skating that is).

As for getting out on the links again, my one recommendation would be to go out with someone who doesn't care about keeping score. I had played a few times with various boyfriends and male friends who, how can I put this...emphasized certain aspects of the game, machismo wise, that were a real turn off to me.

My love for the game developed when I finally played with a friend who didn't care about score, and to a certain degree etiquette, and we just had fun. And once I started to walk the course by myself I really discovered that I just love it for itself, the game that is.

Anyway, if you do head on out again, let me know how it goes.

The Constructivist said...

Don't forget the Se Ri Pak effect on the LPGA!

Jennifer said...

Thanks Constructivist--I am bad about following the LPGA. I actually had high hopes, probably too high hopes, for Michelle Wie. A friend of mine warned me that she'd never live up to the hype. It does seem unfortunate that I, and so many others, wanted her to be "the next Tiger Woods." Was it because she was young, attractive, and Asian American? I wonder how much of all of that played into the "Wie" effect.

But yes, the LPGA seems to be a more visibly diverse group, at least in terms of Asian golfers, especially those from Korea (like Birdy Kim). Of course, it still begs the question of why there aren't more African American female golfers--or black female golfers from other nations. Where is the sport's Serena and Venus Williams?

The Constructivist said...

On Wie, don't count her out yet! It may take a few years for her to get back to being among the best in the world, and she has a lot of young competition, but I don't see her giving up on golf.

Golf is huge all over Asia. Sure, South Koreans have been the most prominent new participants in the past decades, but Japanese golfers are starting to come over here again, there are some excellent Taiwanese golfers, and the first-ever fully-exempt Chinese golfer will be playing on the tour this year.

On the dearth of African-American golfers on the LPGA, Dorothy Delasin won Rookie of the Year a few years back and just teamed with Jennifer Rosales to bring the Women's World Cup of Golf to the Philippines. I had always assumed she was African American, so I was surprised to see that she's at least part Filipino. But, yeah, we've seen no Tiger Woods effect in men's or women's golf yet. Give the First Tee time, I guess....

The Constructivist said...

BTW, Jennifer, there's a kind of a "straw that broke the camel's back" discussion going on over at Mostly Harmless and Seoul Sisters over whether Ron Sirak's LPGA predictions provide evidence of an anti-Asian (and Asian-American) bias on his part. I'm on the fence, but others far to the right of me politically are convinced there's some form of racism operating here. It may sound trivial to non-LPGA fanatics, but Sirak is one of the few major golf writers who even pays any attention at all to women's golf (he's certainly better informed that Doug Ferguson, who covers the LPGA for the AP), and if the gatekeepers of the media can't even get their reporting/commenting close to right, then the odds of its fanbase growing go down.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the links and a heads up on the debate. The first thing I have to say is that as much as I love playing golf and following Tiger's career, my golf knowledge is pretty limited--as in, I don't tend to read many golf magazines (unless the latest issue of Golf Digest is at my gym) nor do I follow many tournaments outside the majors. I'm sure there's a word for someone like me--essentially, outside of watching one of the 4 majors, I'd much rather be on the course playing than watching anyone else, male or female.

That said, I have enjoyed watching LPGA events and while I don't know the field nearly as well as you do, my gut sense is that there are many Asian female golfers (predominantly from South Korea it seems) who are a "driving" force, so to speak, led by Se Ri Park.

And so this writer, Sirak, who has overlooked many promising and prominent Asian golfers, may well indeed be racist. But is it due to his myopia of Asian female golfers? Tough to tell. My own belief is that most if not all of us have racist tendencies we need to overcome. I guess I'm less interested in arguing whether this oversight is an example of his racist beliefs/tendencies than to think about the effects of his overlook.

One such effect is obviously that his credibility in covering golf is going to be damaged and undermined if these predictions fall short and he's found to have ignored many Asian golfers. Another is that his readers may very well believe him and discount many prominent Asian golfers. Still another may be the effect on the Asian golfers themselves--not seeing themselves ranked very high and regarded very well by him can either cause an ego bruising or a bucking up.

I think calling Sirak out on his biases is good--seems like a lot of people are doing that already--it could be possible that he is ignorant of his own biases--many of us are ignorant of our racial prejudices and biases until someone points them out. This could also be a good wake-up call for someone, perhaps an Asian American woman, to go into sports journalism and actually cover, with accuracy and respect, the entire field of LPGA golfers.

Anyway, those are my two cents for what they're worth.

And in your next to last comment, I do hope that Michelle Wie gets back on track--it would be sad to see someone with so much talent end up like Jennifer Capriati or other young female athletes whose full potential never comes to fruition.

The Constructivist said...

I was not all that different from you, attention-to-pros-wise, until our kids were born and I had to give up playing golf for the past few years. I followed Tiger religiously, was impressed by the Se Ri Pak-Jenny Chausiriporn showdown in the '98 U.S. Open, and in awe of Sorenstam, but I was mostly having a lot of fun playing alone and with friends at the local public course. It was a great way to meet people and make frieds for a newcomer to the area like me, and gave me a bit of access to a working-class culture my professional status and long hours at the job would otherwise have walled me off from.

It was Ai Miyazato who drew me into LPGA blogging seriously. Started hanging out at the Seoul Sisters discussion boards, reading other LPGA bloggers (the few, the proud).... Along the way, I kept noticing the circulation of both "yellow peril" and "model minority" discourses in the representation of Asian and Asian American golfers in print and on-line, along with some nods to the "globalization" of women's golf. So what started out as a substitute for one obsession eventually tied itself to my more academic obsessions....

I like your trying to turn the focus from assessing an individual's vice or virtue to the effects/consequences of his actions. Sirak is the Executive Editor of Golf World, so we're talking about someone much higher-placed than the recently-fired Golfweek editor Dave Seanor and at least on par with Kelly Tilghman in terms of status within the profession, if not face or name recognition. He's certainly a gatekeeper when it comes to the way the LPGA is presented in the media, as a lot of other outlets and writers follw his lead. So I would argue there are potentially huge repercussions to his oversights and/or biases, particularly as women's golf seems poised to make the same quantum leap in media play that women's tennis made with the Williams sisters and other young stars taking over a while back. At the very least, there's a real missed opportunity to get everyday Americans thinking about what global competition might mean in other areas than women's golf.

The Constructivist said...

Sad news on the sports journalism comment of yours--Eric, the guy who runs Seoul Sisters and writes for Asian American Golf Magazine, just announced that the tenth issue (which just came out) will be its last. I've encouraged him to start a blog and join Mulligan Stu at Waggle Room, Hound Dog at his eponymous LPGA blog, and Bill Jempty at The Florida Masochist, Outside the Beltway, and elsewhere, and me at Mostly Harmless--that is, a bunch of white guys from various generations. We'll see....

Jennifer said...

The more I start to dig around sports and race, the more I think this should be something I should definitely research further--perhaps this should be my 3rd book project (oh, but I DO have to finish the second one...)

Anyway, thanks for clarifying more about Sirak. It sounds like he does wield a lot of power and influence, and for that reason, it seems particularly frustrating that he is shaping the discourse around the LPGA reporting. I guess the only thing to do is to have alternative sources, like your blog, as a counterweight to his skewed (and potentially racist) analyses. I'd say that although it's cold comfort, the fact that there is an active debate about this going on SOMEHWERE and somewhere more populist than his magazine forum is perhaps a small step towards a greater justice.