News & Opinion

Golf’s new level of arrogance

I still remember one of the earliest lessons I received from Jackie Burke, the former Masters and PGA champion, during my first week on the job at Champions Golf Club in Houston. He said, “Pelham, there are no gray areas in the game of golf. The same goes for life. You’re either in bounds or you are out of bounds!”   

I think it is interesting how we see, not only in the world of golf but in other areas of our everyday lives, these highly defined lines being moved and blurred at a staggering rate. They happen so fast now that few will stand in solidarity against those who commit a crime or an infraction and try to get away with it, often with the help of their friends and allies. They simply try to find a way to justify their behavior and brush it off as no big deal while leaving the rest of us scratching our heads.

In the case of Paul Levy, whom I have known for many years, he should resign as president of the PGA of America this week (“PGA applies double standard in Levy case,” June 17). I know it is a difficult decision, given all the glory and media exposure that awaits him with the PGA Championship in August and the Ryder Cup in September, but it’s the right thing to do, not only for him but for the PGA. I’m wondering whether the organization is even thinking of how it will look on TV when the time comes.    

Levy is lucky that his actions, which were far worse than Ted Bishop’s petty crime of offending the PC crowd, didn’t kill someone. If Levy isn’t held to a higher standard and removed from the PGA of America’s top elected office, then the PGA should reinstate Bishop’s standing and stature in the organization. Without that, there is a double standard.  

And in case Phil Mickelson thinks he got away with something last weekend (“Mickelson, USGA disgrace U.S. Open,” June 17), just wait till he gets an earful from the golfing purists at Carnoustie next month at the British Open. He’d better start thinking today how he is going to start plugging the numerous holes in his dike. Maybe he can start with a sincere apology admitting his mistake and donate the earnings from last week’s U.S. Open to charity. Anything less and he will feel the heat from the Scots, in spades. In Scotland, he will have lost most of his adoring fans.

In both men’s cases, I see a level of arrogance that simply cannot be tolerated or allowed to stand without consequences. Both will have to live with this stigma. And in both cases, how tragic. All we can do is hope that we learn from their mistakes and not be as stupid and conceited as to think it couldn’t happen to any one of us.

(Pelham, who lives in Houston, played the PGA Tour in the late 1970s and early '80s and is the author of “Burke and Demaret: The Wit and Wisdom of Golf’s Most Colorful Duo.”)