The British golfer Lee Westwood has commented strongly about the behaviour of the crowd at the Ryder Cup at Valhalla – and he has every reason to be unhappy. For those who might have missed the TV coverage of the event there was a symbiosis between some in the American team and substantial numbers in the crowd who went completely over the top in their support. Not only did the crowd give us their usual idiotic “In the Hole” cries as their favourites hit their shots but we had chanting that would have been out of place in the blue-collar world of NASCAR, let alone in the supposedly more refined up-market sphere of golf.

The American captain Paul Azinger and some of his team did nothing to restrain the over-the-top    crowd behaviour – indeed they encouraged it. If I was playing in my club’s monthly medal I would be expected to behave – and this means that any overt intimidatory actions on my part would be out of place. There is a code of behaviour in golf which is immutable – you compete hard, but you must act fairly or your club committee will want to know why! No such restraint was shown by Azinger and his chief accomplices – particularly Anthony Kim and Boo Weekley. Both of these players were seen to be encouraging the more raucous elements of the crowd not, as you might have hoped,  to moderate their conduct in the interests of fair play but actually to be louder and more excessive.

And so the crowd felt that it was fine to cheer and mock when a European player missed a putt, a lack of manners which would get me expelled from my golf club if I did the same. The irony of all this is that American professional golf is the home base of that most superior breed of American – the Country Club Republican. If you want to understand the mindset of most of the supporters and of most of the PGA Tour players you have only to consider the fact that they are overwhelmingly supporters of the Republican Party and many identify themselves with the religious right. Indeed Tom, Lehman the 2006 Ryder Cup Captain has in the past refused to meet ex-President Clinton and has referred to him as a “draft-dodging baby-killer” 

It is the hypocrisy of all this which sticks in the gut. These privileged men with their millionaire lifestyles and their supposed Christian ethics are swift to denigrate anything that sounds like liberalism. But they are happy to be associated with the worst excesses of the good ol’ boy inanities of the likes of Boo Weekley. So long as it helps the Americans to intimidate their opponents. And I bet all this goes down well in the elitist, exclusively white, insular and prejudiced world of the Country Clubs.
 

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