Antitechnology reporting, such as unsubstantiated allegations in SI, could lead to ill-conceived policy
Photo courtesy Damian Strohmeyer
In the July 7 Golf Plus the Big Play featured Mitchell Spearman, an instructor at Manhattan Woods in West Nyack, N.Y. Spearman made the serious allegation that on "any given week, up to a quarter of the field could have illegal drivers, and I believe that some players use hot balls."
Free speech is a wonderful thing. However, making inflammatory accusations without producing one iota of evidence is both reckless and irresponsible. The issue here is not Mr. Spearman's credibility on this subject, because clearly he has none. He is not a member of the PGA Tour, he is not a manufacturer, and he has not tested the equipment of every Tour member. The issue is why a leading publication like Sports Illustrated would provide a forum for slanderous allegations with no supporting evidence.
Unfortunately, Golf Plus is not alone in its antitechnology reporting. The print and electronic media have promoted a technophobic agenda since the start of the season, featuring such tabloid-ready headlines as THE WEAPONS RACE, BAN THIS BALL OR ELS, GOING THE DISTANCE WITH SOUPED-UP GOLF BALLS and COOLING HOT DRIVERS. The 24-hour Golf Channel contributes to the hysteria by allowing selected talent to spew one-sided antitechnology commentary and conduct "leading-the-witness" interviews.
The problem with all of this is that it can result in ill-conceived policy. In its position paper on equipment, the PGA Tour says that the "increased distance by today's elite players has proven to be problematical." Among the reasons cited is "an increasing media and fan perception that excellent play by today's professionals is more a result of technology than skill or athleticism." Elsewhere in the document it says that "to the extent golf ball distance continues to increase and/or the perception of the media and the public relative to distance becomes more negative ... the PGA Tour should further consider whether additional rule modifications are desirable."
Media and fan perceptions are unlikely to change as long as golf's Fourth Estate continues to distort the news and default on its obligation to be objective. If the Tour is serious about monitoring fan perception and using the feedback to affect policy going forward, then it needs to hold the media to a higher standard of balance than what is being practiced today.
Wally Uihlein is the chairman and CEO of the Acushnet Company. This article appeared in the July 28, 2003 issue of Sports Illustrated Golf Plus, and is being reprinted with the permission of Sports Illustrated. Click here to view this article on Sports Illustrated's web site.
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