At age 59, Tom Watson almost won the British Open. It took a playoff to beat an old fogey in a major championship. Imagine that! So I knew people would say that the outcome further validated the "golf isn't a sport" argument.
On Monday, CBSSports.com columnist Mike Freeman wrote that Watson's run at the title was inspirational but it was rather embarrassing for the sport of golf. He said Old Man Watson showed that "the athleticism required to play golf is so minimal it's negligible."
Sigh. Freeman's argument is baseless. It never defines what qualifies as "athleticism." He also said golfing and bowling require the same skill level. It's obvious he was trying to make a controversial statement and perhaps he was being a tad facetious. But umm...that's a terrible analogy and completely unfounded.
While I can't deny the argument that golf doesn't demand the same strength and power required in other sports such as basketball and football, it does require athleticism. Sure, you can't be pushing 60 and tackle 250 pound linebackers. Or run full speed down a basketball court to make an alley-oop dunk. Or leap over the fence to catch a baseball robbing the hitter of a homerun.
Consider the position of DH in baseball. I love Edgar Martinez, but in the last few years of his career he was basically limping his way around the bases. He could still hit the ball decently up until he retired at the age of 41 - it was because of his consistent swing and excellent hand-eye coordination. Kind of like golf. So does that mean a DH isn't a "real" athlete? Not to mention Nolan Ryan was throwing no-hitters past the age of 40. The speed of his pitches were regularly recorded above 100 mph. There goes baseball being considered a "real" sport.
How about George Foreman? He was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer to claim the heavyweight boxing champion title. Everyone knows what wimps those boxers are. And what about Willie Gault? At 45, he was still running the 100 meters in 10 seconds. When he was 47, he set a world record in the M45-49 age-group for running the 200 meters in 20.72 seconds. He was competing in an older age bracket, but regardless those times are impressive.
There are a dozen other examples, but you get the point -- age doesn't always matter. Sure 40-something is different than 60. But golf is a sport where skill often defies age.
I'd like to see retired 60-year-olds of "legitimate" sports play four competitive rounds of golf, notwithstanding practice rounds. I have a feeling they wouldn't last two rounds, nor would they ever be able to shoot anything close to what Watson did -- or any other professional golfer considered a "senior citizen." So you say it's because of the years of practice and experience. That's right. It's called being able to consistently swing a club with the same motion and tempo. And it's not as easy as it may look.
There's also a little something called endurance. Even an athletic person will tire after playing and walking 18 holes. Try carrying your own bag around a hilly course in 90-degree heat. Or repeating the same swing all day, and with accuracy. Then get back to me about golf not requiring any kind of athletic ability.
Most professional golfers are in great shape. They do work out. Golf calls for tremendous coordination, stamina and strength, albeit a different kind. Call it whatever you want -- a sport, game or hobby. It doesn't matter. In my opinion, Old Man Watson's epic performance further validated why golf is the best sport ever.
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