Golf needs a delegate – someone to minister this magnificent game to the masses.
This person must be someone that people will like, relate to and learn from. It must be someone who will inspire more people to want to play the game.
May I suggest Bill Murray?
No, I’m not kidding. I’m as serious as a declaration of war on gophers.
Before I go on about Murray, let me remind you that our game is not in good shape from a growth standpoint. Did you hear the good news that golf rounds are up a whopping 0.4 percent for the year? The industry’s growing-the-game initiatives are really kicking in now. Not.
In 2005, 30 million people played 550 million rounds of golf. Those numbers are now around 25 million players and 465 million rounds. But it’s all good, right?
The golf industry still touts that it’s a $75 billion industry. The country clubbers still brag at how much they spent on their new set of irons. And golf continues its label as a rich white man’s game, which it has not been able to shed for decades.
Is the label fair? It depends on whom you ask.
While golf can be expensive, it does not have to be. There are plenty of affordable courses for people to play. But the label still sticks.
Unfortunately, the label comes with an attachment, not unlike those in ugly pork barrel politics. Golf continues to carry its stuffy and uptight label. And stuffy and uptight often equates to no fun allowed.
Back to Bill Murray. Of course, golf course superintendents know him as Carl Spackler, the goofy but loveable assistant superintendent at the fictitious Bushwood Country Club in “Caddyshack.” People in general probably view him as that funny-as-all-get-out actor from the 1980s. But Murray is so much more than that.
First, from the acting side, Murray has proved that he is more than just a funny face – consider his Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the drama film “Lost in Translation.” On the golf side, Murray has proved he has game. Sporting a 7 handicap, he is a regular at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
So, we know that Murray can be serious, and we know he has game. And nobody, of course, has ever questioned his sense of humor.
In the past, I often have wondered how interesting it would be to get Murray to be the keynote speaker at the Golf Industry Show. Murray helped put greenkeeping on the map with the public when he portrayed Spackler, although some superintendents believe his eccentric character set the profession back several years from a to-be-taken-seriously standpoint. While I believe Murray would be a hit with superintendents – from a humor and support standpoint – I’m sure the GCSAA probably has never seriously considered having him.
But maybe it is time to consider him as a keynote – and let him talk about how this industry needs to grow the game. Maybe it is time for the United States Golf Association and the Professional Golfers Association to feature Murray in promotional commercials on how to grow the game. The commercials could be humorous with a persuasive twist. They would make people laugh, but they would get people interested in playing the game. Murray would convey the message that people shouldn’t be afraid to play golf.
Listen, Murray isn’t some total goofball who doesn’t take the game seriously. He’s a gamer, which he proved when he and D.A. Points won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2011.
But Murray shows us that it is OK not to wear khakis and polo shirts to play, and that it is fine to clown around and laugh during a round of golf if you are not offending anyone.
For golf, it could be a growing-the-game initiative that works wonders – “a Cinderella story outta nowhere.”
COVER PHOTO BY LAWRENCE AYLWARD / EDITOR AT LARGE