Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Harlow Hickenlooper

What responsibility, if any, do our professional athletes and coaches have when it comes to conduct on the playing field? There is a feeling among most fans that these people have a certain standard of behavior that is required, in large part, because of the money they are paid to be part of a game.

Is that fair? Do we hold other people in lines of work that don’t involve sports under the same rules and guidelines? Compensation should be relative to the importance of the job performed, but in the United States it’s not. We live in a free country. If you don’t like your job and what you get paid, do something else.

World Peace, alias Ron Artest, proved this week that he learned nothing from his season of suspension with the Indiana Pacers. The New Orleans Saints obviously feel that some basic rules in the NFL are meant for the other teams in the league, not them. Every month something happens in sports that tarnishes the image of a sport and its athletes.

Golf has prided itself on a standard of behavior that goes beyond other sports. Interestingly, PGA Tour players are fined for throwing clubs or embarking on profanity laced tirades. However, the PGA Tour has elected to not make these fines public and this has drawn criticism.

The professional golf tour was founded many years ago and it was originally run by the PGA of America. In the late 1960’s there was a split between the players and the PGA. The players were unhappy with the way the Tour was being run and they sought bigger purses. Consequently, and this is confusing, the PGA Tour runs what you watch on television most weeks. The PGA of America runs most of the golf courses that you play and take lessons on.

When I am the President of the PGA of America, I will have a voting seat on the PGA Tour Policy Board. As Honorary President, I will do the same for the Champions Tour. But, my role as a PGA member is to promote and grow golf at my facility, The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. That being said, the PGA of America is the largest working sports organization in the world with our 27,000 members and apprentices. We do own the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, the Senior PGA Championship as well as the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

When I returned to Indiana after working The Masters I received several letters and phone calls about Tiger Woods and his club throwing incident on the 16th tee during Friday’s second round a few weeks ago. Coincidentally, I was working the 16th green when it happened and saw it firsthand. Most people are understandably confused about my role and what influence I might have on disciplining Woods for his behavior. But, I still get plenty of advice from people on what should be done.

Carol from South Carolina wrote, “Something needs to be done about Tiger Woods. We were appalled at his behavior- kicking his club, swearing, throwing his clubs…. I am not disputing the fact that he used to be a wonderful golfer with a huge following and I’m sure that is why the PGA turned a blind eye to his bad behavior in the past. Because your organization allowed him to act in an inappropriate manner without consequences, he has continued… Since he’s acting like a spoiled little brat he needs to be treated as one and disciplined.”

William from Alabama said, “I witnessed Tiger’s childish behavior at The Masters. Unless he is exempt, he is subject to discipline by the U.S. PGA. Nick Faldo sums it up best when he said Woods ‘has lost his game and his mind.’ Maybe he has a yacht, a multimillion dollar house and too many expensive toys (mostly in skirts). I spent twenty-one years in the military. His father was a green beret. I would guess his father would chastise him for his behavior.”

Then there was Phil from New York, “I believe his behavior and language needs to be addressed by you or your committee. Think of the millions of young boys and young girls who heard that language and observed his tirade. How shameful! Whatever is causing him to react this way, the media glorifying him; his own personal issues; or personal wealth is no excuse for this behavior from a golf professional.”

The best and most heartfelt post-Masters comment came from Hal Fryar of Franklin. “I am always appreciative of the articles that you write in the local paper around the major championships. I am very disappointed that there was no follow-up on Tiger Woods’ at The Masters. You have a personal life and an article of your own feelings is relevant.  The PGA should be open on Tiger’s fines. Whether its $10,000 or $50,000- it’s a joke. It means nothing to him. Be realistic and know the real world that you live in. Another article is definitely in order.”

For those that may not know, Hal Fryar is a local television icon. He was the host for an Indianapolis children’s show that highlighted the old Three Stooges shorts. He appeared under the name “Harlow Hickenlooper” and performed skits and slapstick comedy routines with passion. His character of Harlow was of someone who nothing ever went right for, no matter how hard he tried.

So, here I am, in my office doing a double take on this voice message about Tiger Woods from Harlow Hickenlooper. Are you kidding me? The face of my boyhood Three Stooges is busting my chops about Tiger Woods’ behavior at The Masters.

Never one to shy away from a fight, I called Fryar. He came to The Legends. We discussed the situation in person. He listened and we chatted about a lot of stuff. That day was my sister’s birthday. He even called her and sang his famous rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Thanks to Tiger Woods it was a great day.

Let me say that Hal Fryar is exactly right. I should have an opinion on Tiger Woods.  Currently, he is just like Hickenlooper. No matter how hard he tries, nothing goes right for him.

So, there you have it. Tiger and Harlow joined at the hip. Who would ever have thunk that?

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