Fan interaction is one of the most exciting elements of any PGA Tour event. From the roars in the gallery to the overzealous patron yelling, “Smashed potatoes!” after a tee shot, it is one of the aspects that makes golf unique.
But thanks to a new code of conduct from the PGA Tour, those interactions are about to become more regulated and less entertaining.
According to USA Today, the nonprofit organization rolled out the new parameters for fans this season as they began to return to courses following the coronavirus pandemic. It also began a new initiative called “Rep Our Game” two weeks ago before the FedEx Cup playoffs began.
The PGA Tour website noted “Rep” is an acronym that stands for respect the game, enjoy responsibly and play by the rules. Those rules include following the code of conduct, which bars “verbal or physical harassment of players, caddies, volunteers, officials, staff, guests and/or spectators; Distracting a player or any disruption of play; [and] Behavior that is unruly, disruptive, unsafe or illegal in nature.”
While portions of that may sound a bit too politically correct, there is nothing inherently wrong with the standard. Fans certainly should not be allowed to harass players, which is the issue PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan addressed Tuesday, according to USA Today.
“This is about just a few bad actors,” he said. “And for the record, this isn’t about any one particular player or one particular incident.
“But in some situations it’s apparent that we have gotten away from the very civility and respect that are hallmarks to our great game.”
That all sounds well and good. There have certainly been instances this season when PGA Tour fans acted inappropriately, such as the instance when a streaker ran onto the course and hit balls off the fairway during the U.S. Open in June.
Streaker at the US Open? pic.twitter.com/WYrIZu91DU
— Daniel Hussey (@DanielHussey2) June 20, 2021
However, Monahan quickly made it clear he was not referring only to objectively inappropriate issues like this one. Instead, he feels the PGA Tour should be able to eject fans simply for saying things some players take issue with.
“The barometer we are all using is the word ‘respect,'” he said.
“And to me, when you hear ‘Brooksie’ yelled or you hear any expression yelled, is that respectful or disrespectful? To me, at this point, it’s disrespectful. And that’s the kind of behavior that we’re not going to tolerate going forward.”
Monahan was referring to a longstanding feud between PGA Tour stars Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. The two have publicly expressed their disdain for one another, but Koepka has received more support on social media.
The viral feud eventually led fans to call DeChambeau “Brooksie” in an attempt to poke fun at him. The practice began to gain steam after a video circulated from a practice round at the 2021 PGA Championship.
Obviously, it wouldn’t be much fun to be called the name of your rival while you compete. But is this relatively minor teasing really hurting anyone?
If fans were yelling during DeChambeau’s swing or cursing at him, the PGA Tour would be completely justified in reprimanding them. However, heckling players in a harmless manner is a part of any sport.
By barring fans from engaging in playful banter, the PGA Tour is implying that it is above its own consumers. As Monahan discussed how “disrespectful” the fans are for simply teasing a player, his holier-than-thou attitude is painfully apparent.
It is all part of a broader misconception in American culture that anyone who makes a comment that another person finds remotely offensive is terrible and heartless. Once we embrace that attitude, all semblance of playful banter will disappear, and we will be worse off because of it.
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