Golfers without borders

Golf and politics don’t usually mix. But during the long days and nights of the recent American and Canadian elections, you’ll excuse me for drifting into the political arena. I was just watching CNN’s popular show The Spin Room when it occurred to me that a certain phrase often heard in politics can also be applied to golf.

I’ll call it the globalization of golf — and it’s a phenomenon that confuses me for several reasons.

Global golf

First off, the Canadian Professional Golf Tour will hold four tournaments in South Carolina next year and one in Panama. Huh? I thought this was a Canadian Tour. I guess that’s globalization.

Then there’s the European Tour, which has moved so far beyond its accepted borders that it should really be called the Global Tour. About the only countries in which it doesn’t play in are the US and Canada. The European Tour goes to South Africa, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Brazil and Argentina. Its own media guide calls it the European Tour International Schedule. How can it be the European and International Tour at the same time? Oh never mind. I’m just being churlish.

Also look at the Lies Professional Golf Association Tour, which just announced it will hold a tournament in Korea next year. The LPGA folks said they’ve wanted to play there because of such stars as Se Ri Pak, Grace Park and Mi Hyun Kim. The LPGA Tour also plays in Australia and Japan. Next year the Weetabix Women’s British Open in the UK will be an official LPGA Tour event.

Does this make any sense? Should geographical boundaries be thrown out the window for the sake of expansion? The world of golf is becoming one big mess of tournaments and few people know which events belong to which tour? You need a program, or at least a media guide.

Then again, there’s plenty of precedent for the globalization of golf. The PGA Tour has held the Canadian Open in our home and native land since 1904. And now the Air Canada Championship in Surrey, BC is an annual PGA Tour event. And of course money won at the British Open counts as official money on the PGA Tour.

The LPGA Tour also has a tradition of playing in Canada, with the du Maurier Classic on its annual schedule. But legislation that blocks tobacco sponsorship has now ended that event. Presto, the Royal Canadian Golf Association and the Bank of Montreal have stepped into the breach and will conduct a Canadian Women’s Open next year. So the tradition continues.

Loss of identity

But still, it’s all getting a bit much. Won’t the Canadian Tour lose its identity by holding some tournaments in the United States? And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the hitherto US-based BUY.COM Tour will be playing a tournament in Canada next summer.

That tournament will be none other than the Canadian PGA Championship. But if it’s the Canadian PGA Championship how can it also be a BUY.COM Tour event? If that makes sense to you, please clear things up for me. I can get plenty of spin from the golf officials involved, but I still find myself mixed up.

But golfers themselves don’t seem too concerned about global golf. The top players just get their own planes or enter into arrangements to use private planes. This week Nick Price flew off to Sun City, South Africa to play a 12-man tournament offering a $2 million first prize. Tiger Woods flew back to Arizona from Hawaii, having come there from Thailand. Next week he’s off to Buenos Aires to play in the World Cup. Greg Norman zipped off to Australia last week to play his country’s national Open.

Well, Woods and Norman know that a golfer has to play and win around the world if he’s going to be considered a true champion. They’ve both won British Opens. Woods recently won the Johnnie Walker Thailand Classic. Norman has won in Australia and Canada. And Woods won the Bell Canadian Open in September.

“Hello world,” Woods said when he turned pro in 1996. Did he know then that he was being prescient? He’s one amazing golfer, but can he predict the future? And the future is global golf. That future, in fact, is here already. And the game is only getting more global.

Meanwhile, I’m just thankful that I have a few maps around the house to remind me that countries have real borders. I mean, Jay Leno said that Al Gore actually thinks he won the Canadian election. Sounds to me like the Vice-President could use a good map. So could the golf world. Or maybe the golf world is just one world — a global one without borders.