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John Daly’s buggy gives us a joyride in front of po-faced golf authorities

The Guardian logo The Guardian 22/05/2019 Marina Hyde
a man riding a motorcycle in a field: John Daly was allowed to use a buggy during the US PGA Championship. Not everyone was happy. © AP John Daly was allowed to use a buggy during the US PGA Championship. Not everyone was happy.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

News that the R&A is considering John Daly’s request for permission to use a buggy for July’s Open at Royal Portrush has been met by a growing chorus of people saying that it shouldn’t be. The argument seems to be that golf has worked hard not to be seen as something that fat middle-aged guys can win – I paraphrase slightly – and that Daly using a buggy would make a mockery of all that valuable progress, even though no one else would probably ever seek to do it. And even though that was one of the fun things about golf – which is, let’s face it, still not the 100 metres final.

If you missed the background to all this, Daly went round last week’s US PGA Championship in a buggy, in which he had stashed the usual pack of fags and a McDonald’s cup. Owing to the osteoarthritis in a knee, he successfully applied under disability legislation. Alas, the decision was frowned upon by various bores, including Tiger Woods, who sniffed: “I walked with a broken leg …” Which, for me, served as one of those bi-weekly reminders of how it’s possible to love Woods and absolutely hate pretty much everything about him. I guess each man has his appetites to master, so it did make me wonder if Woods ever had sex with any of his cocktail waitresses with a broken leg. If so: well done, champ. You’re a real hero.

Since then, further commentators have suggested Daly “did the sport a disservice” by insisting on a buggy, with claims that allowing him to do it again would “demean golf”.

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez) © Getty (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Really? All this puts me in mind of The Day Today sketch where the serial killer Chapman Baxter is to be executed in the manner of his own choosing. This turns out to be sitting on an electric toilet, full of drugs and cheeseburgers, thereby emulating the death of his hero, Elvis Presley. The chairman of the local Elvis fan club is told by a TV news reporter that some people might say this is debasing the memory of the king. “No, ma’am,” comes the answer. “King did that himself by dying on the john in a big nappy.”

And so – in a way – with golf. The idea that Daly could debase it by using a buggy is fairly adorable. Golf does that itself. The powers that be in the game debase it more than any player ever possibly could. The absolute worst thing about golf is the people in charge of it, from club level to tour level to the R&A, and the notion that it would be desirable to hear any more from them about their interminable regulations, ever, is absurd.

The most deadly perception problem that golf has – still – is not that out-of-shape people can win at it, but that it’s rules obsessed, elitist and would do anything it could not to share itself with people who look like you. Hey, I’m not saying you look like Daly – but I bet you look like you might like a pint with him. And that, as far as the disapproving bores in charge of a game they don’t actually own are concerned, is the thin end of the wedge.

Gallery: Golf's unlikeliest major winners of all time [ReadSport]

Still, what a wedge! I imagine it starts with “just one pint”, then ends 72 hours later in Rio, with no idea how you got there, playing tee shots off the arms of Christ the Redeemer.

As indicated earlier, I would go further and say that one of the idiosyncratically appealing things about golf is that – how to euphemise this? – “non-conventional athletes” could be really good at it. It’s not quite a golfing USP, because you get it in darts and snooker too, but they are all able to make room for off-brand folk heroes. Bring these sports your overweight, your relatable, your openly tormented. Though this tendency is decidedly on the way out in top-flight golf it was appealingly humanising and perhaps the reason that more good movies have been made about golf than most other elite sports.

If Big Golf doesn’t want people to think that any more, it needs better stories to tell them. Woods’s comeback was a good one for sure. But these days it’s hard to escape the sense that the authorities just feel someone like Daly makes the place untidy. To those of us less obsessed with keeping up appearances, Daly smoking round a course in his McBuggy functions as an amusing memento mori to a demographic that otherwise feels that if they just shrink the state a little further, immortality may be within their grasp. Guys: I have news for you. It’s not! We’re all going to die – and we might as well have fun along the way.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

That certainly always seems to have been Daly’s philosophy. This year, as always, he was selling merchandise out of his bus outside of Augusta National. Or, more specifically, outside the nearest Hooters to Augusta National. (Which, as hopalong Masters champion Tiger Woods probably remembers, is one mile away from that most hideously exclusive of golf clubs.)

Daly’s stall is mobbed from the minute he opens to closing time, with one of his friends telling the Los Angeles Times: “You just wouldn’t see very many pros doing that. He’s probably the only one that would ever do that, honestly. Get out and meet the public.” Another friend put it even more simply: “It says, he’s us.”

Well quite. It’s only a game. Ignore the athletic snobs and give him his buggy. God knows we’ll all need one in the end.

MSN UK are Empowering Happiness for mental health awareness month. Find out more about our campaign and the charities working to stop people falling into crisis here.

Related: The Masters: Players who have won the famous tournament on more than one occasion [ReadSport]


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