Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Why So Quiet? Most Professional Athletes Have to Deliver with Fans Yelling at Them at the Top of Their Lungs, So Why Not Golfers?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Why So Quiet? Most Professional Athletes Have to Deliver with Fans Yelling at Them at the Top of Their Lungs, So Why Not Golfers?

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Larson

Platoons of marshals at The Players Championship this week will raise their arms skyward. Behind them, crowds of golf fans will stop in their tracks and hold their tongues.

Quiet, please. Professional golfers ahead.

Baseball pitchers must aim 93-mph fastballs into the strike zone and batters have to hit those pitches with the crowd abuzz. Football kickers must deliver the ball through distant 18-foot-wide goal posts with fans screaming.

And basketball players have to make 15-foot foul shots as opposing fans flail their arms, wave foam sticks or engage in all manner of shenanigans.

There's crying in golf, but no yelling when players are hitting.

Why do spectators have to be quiet for professional golfers when most other athletes have to endure some downright dirty distractions?

"Etiquette," said United States Golf Association historian Robert Williams. "Golf has been a gentleman's game from the very beginning and players treated each other with respect. During the early tournaments such as the British Open and U.S. Open, the spectators were almost 100 percent golfers themselves so they all practiced etiquette and the tradition has carried on ever since."

Many current and former PGA Tour players say that if players grew up playing with noise, they probably would be used to it. But now?

"Oh," said 1988 Players winner Mark McCumber. "I don't know if the guys could handle it, especially at first. We might need a whole new generation of golfers. This year, if it were allowed, some guys might not finish. The winning score would be over 300, I'll tell you that. Something like a baby crying isn't so bad, but people yelling during backswings and putts. Wow!"

Other players agreed that it's not the normal babble that's so distracting, it's the sudden sounds or the change in volume that jars.

"It's not the talking," said Hunter Mahan, current points leader in the Tour's season-long FedEx Cup competition. "If everyone's talking, it's not a problem. It's the weird yells and the stuff that comes from nowhere, like during a backswing."

"It's the change in dead silence to noise or from noise to dead silence that's bad," said Tour member Geoff Ogilvy.

GETTING USED TO IT

Jeff Sluman, a former Tour player who now plays on the senior players' Champions Tour, thinks loud fans just take getting used to. He remembers playing with actor Bill Murray at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"We had the crowd be as loud as they could while we were hitting, and it really didn't affect you. They would scream and yell in the middle of our swings and we did all right," Sluman recalled.

"But you know what's really bothersome," Sluman continues, "is when you duff a shot and you hear someone in the crowd say, 'I could have done that.' You want to go over to that person and 'yeee-yeee-yeee' [Sluman makes a choking gesture]."

Ciaron Monaghan, the golf professional at the St. Augustine Shores Golf Club, played the European Tour in the 1980s.

"You know what bothered me?" Monaghan said. "It was the whispering. The crowd would get all quieted down and if I heard someone whispering, it bothered the heck out of me."

So how then do players in other sports deal with the noise? Concentration, they say.

"I can remember facing guys like Hank Aaron and Rod Carew and being very nervous, but I totally tuned the crowd out. …

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