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Your! Call: Should golf fans make noise at all events?

Paul Hoogkamp, TSN.ca

10/2/2012 12:50:31 PM

The Ryder Cup is unlike any other golf tournament on the calendar for many reasons.

There is the team aspect, where players participate for the greater good and cheer on their teammates, as opposed to simply battling the course in an every-man-for-himself scenario.

There is the national or continental pride of wanting your side to prevail over the other, hearing American fans chant of "USA, USA" or European fans serenading their players with "Ole, Ole, Ole."

Which leads to the biggest difference between the Ryder Cup and any other golf tournament: the fans and the noise they make in an otherwise sterile environment.

Who can forget watching Bubba Watson step up to the first tee on Friday, imploring the fans to cheer, not just when he was introduced but when he swung? That's a far cry from golfers complaining when someone snaps a picture in their backswing.

"That was amazing," European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said on Saturday. "They may be starting a trend."

So if Bubba Watson can hit a golf ball with fans cheering around him, why not the rest of the field? Should golf fans be encouraged to make noise at every event?

Now, the first reaction for some may be visions of "Happy Gilmore", the movie starring Adam Sandler where his disheveled character builds up a following of fans that don't normally watch golf and therefore behave in a way that irks the other golfers and regular members of the gallery.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open in February may be the closest example of this on the PGA Tour, especially at the par-3 16th hole at the TPC of Scottsdale course where the gallery is raucous, cheering good shots and booing bad ones. Some players like the energy the environment brings, while some are uncomfortable with the rock concert atmosphere. But the players keep coming back.

Golf is a game with a rich history that includes prim and proper behaviour on the part of the patrons. It requires a high degree of concentration and the educated gallery knows that and acts accordingly. And the players have always expected it.

But golf has exploded into the mainstream in the last generation, especially with Tiger Woods capturing the imagination of many people who would not normally follow the sport. While the increased exposure is great for the game, it can come at the price of attracting fans who are not as well versed in the etiquette around the course.

"For me, personally, I'd probably miss the ball," Keegan Bradley said, when asked about ramping up the fans on the tee. "I'm so jacked up on the first tee that if they started doing that, I don't know where I'd go."

One could argue the Ryder Cup attracts the most loyal of golf fans and yet it provides the noisiest galleries every two years. Maybe the old ways are being pushed out by a new generation of fans.

Is it time for the players to get used to some more energy from the fans on a regular basis and learn to play in conditions that prior generations have not had to deal with?

Should golf let go of some of its older traditions for the good of growing the game? Or is the noise a big part of what makes the Ryder Cup the event that it is?

Should golf fans be encouraged to make noise at every event?

As always, it's Your! Call.