Gary Rotstein's The Morning File: Fairway violence is getting to be par for the course

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Tensions around the world have escalated to such a violent level in recent weeks that it might dissuade any rational individual from stepping outside.

We’re talking, of course, about the recent incident at Springdale Golf Course in Fayette County in which one golfer clubbed another during an argument over the game’s rules.

It might be true that mayhem has surged in 2014 in Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine and on the mean streets of Pittsburgh, but when it creeps onto the fairways of the fine links of our region, well, that’s hitting a little too close to home for The Morning File’s taste.

Police filed assault charges against both men involved in the altercation, which reportedly stemmed from a dispute concerning what to do with a golf ball landing in “casual water” (the puddles that can form on a golf course after heavy rain). A verbal argument escalated to the point where one golfer struck another with a club, and injuries from the ensuing fracas led to hospital treatment of injuries to both men.

This appalling incident raises multiple serious questions:

• If it’s appropriate to yell “Fore!” before hitting another golfer with a ball, what is it best to shout before striking one with a club?

• When swinging a club at a fellow golfer, should you judge which one is best to use based on your distance from the golfer, the same as you vary club selection according to distance from the hole?

• Wouldn’t golf attract more young men and lose its status as a boring, declining sport if you could attack other players in the middle of their backswings?

• As there are about 18,000 bazillion rules in golf that no normal person can remember, thus provoking furious debates that slow down the game during every round, would it be better to approach it the way ex-hippies treated parenting and just let everyone do whatever they want?

• If there’s so much water on the golf course that it’s interfering with play, shouldn’t the players just forgo sloshing through 18 holes and skip to what they really came for: drinking in the clubhouse to get away from their wives even longer than the agonizingly slow game itself called for?

The Morning File is somewhat sympathetic to both golfers in the episode, as anyone experienced with the game knows it is impossible to play 18 holes without the urge to maim someone. The potential targets come in all forms: the partner who gives unsolicited advice on what you’re doing wrong, the companion who mulls every shot beforehand as though it will decide a Masters championship, the one who conveniently forgets to count stubbed shots when tallying his score.

Most of all, at least from one writer/​golfer’s perspective, this particular sport brings the maddening urge to kill oneself. All of the poor shots, bad bounces and flawed decisions that can take place over four or five hours tend to make one far angrier at the only person responsible than at anyone else.

You can’t really fulfill that self-loathing by swinging a club at your own body, however, in the same way it’s hard to drown yourself in a swimming pool. In either case, the tendency is to struggle to do whatever it takes to survive. (If cyanide pills were as readily available on the course as little wooden golf tees, things might be different; the time it takes to complete a round would be reduced considerably, from the purge of so many participants along the way.)

In the case of the Springdale brawl, one wonders about the reaction of the other hackers (a term probably better suited to the two pugilists) in the group, inasmuch as it would have constituted an unusual scene in the generally genteel world of golf.

If one golfer got in a good swing at the other, did someone say, “Oh, nice shot, Chuck,” as would be a customary compliment after a well-struck ball, or would they veer instead into golf parlance with something like, “Oy, that’s a nasty hook there.”

One way or another, it seems a safe bet that they were all back out there the next day or will be next week, or whatever their normal frequency is. The maddening game is addictive, no matter how much it beats you up.

Or, in this case, how much another golfer beats you up.

Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255. Ruth Ann Dailey is off today.

First Published August 11, 2014 12:00 AM

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