2020 YEAR IN REVIEW | John Piccolo, Golf columnist

Every pandemic its silver lining

I started to write a column about the goings-on of golf during this year of pandemic, and specifically a story I saw on the CBC about how The Royal Ottawa Golf Club, one of the most prestigious in the country, took advantage of a government wage subsidy program, even though they likely made more money than at any other point in their history. It is a sordid tale of entitlement and short-sightedness and likely depressing for most, and, I think, we need little more positivity at the moment. So perhaps I will add the Ottawa affair to some other nefarious things that go on in the golf world and save it for later.

In a nutshell, if you owned a golf course in Ontario this year and didn’t make money, give it up. You obviously have no idea what you are doing. There are some really bright owners in this game and some who may be more qualified to drive the beverage cart and all of them have a smile glued on their face like bad plastic surgery. What about next year? Who the hell knows.

On the professional side of the game there is a youngish man by the name of Bryson Dechambeau who caused a big kerfuffle when he decided he was going to try to do something most said was impossible—combine the world of long drive with the world of golf. You might be thinking that guys in the long drive competitions are golfers but that isn’t quite true. Some of them are quite good at the game (not great good) but others do nothing but try to hit a golf ball as far as possible. Generally they get eight whacks at it and only have to get one in play on a grid that is 45-60 yards wide. They look more like Russian shot putters than golfers. They don’t need to chip or putt or even own a set of irons. They play loud music and act a little like wrestlers the last time I saw it.

Players like Tiger and Rory and Phil would be curious to watch these guys but never take them seriously beyond the “holy cow” factor. Hitting a golf ball 450 yards is amazing but on the PGA tour and, even on Sunday morning at Peninsula Lakes, you don’t generally get eight tries (any more than three lost balls on a consistent basis and you should take a couple of weeks off and then quit) and the fairway is rarely 60 yards wide. In “real” golf you have to go find it and be able to hit it again or the penalties are quite harsh. This has been enough to keep the tour players in check. Until Bryson.

Bryson is not like the other guys. More than anyone in recent memory he will try anything to gain an advantage. He was a very good player on tour for a few years but certainly not dominant. So Dechambeau decided he was going to look more shot-puttish (by gaining 40 pounds) and swing his driver as if it had pissed him off. You don’t have to like him or agree with him but you can’t argue with the results. He has won twice with this technique including the US Open. I’m not sure his body will hold up to the strain of the unnatural weight gain and the force of swinging the club that hard, that often, but he has certainly generated discussion. That is the way the world works. Dislike the guy for taking too long to hit a shot, for being a Trump supporter, trying to get a free drop because he is afraid the ants might get him, but not for pushing the envelope.

Hope everyone has as great a holiday as possible. We have along way to go but will get there. Take advantage of the wonderful opportunities there are of living in this region and this country. Make sure you reach out for help if you need it and offer it up if you can give it. Peace.