What's a good way to make pro golf, and PGA Tour events, less fun and interesting? On Tuesday night, Rex Hoggard reported that the PGA Tour would be banning the caddie races that are a fixture on the circuit, specifically at TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Open and at Colonial for the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
It's not the most outrageous prohibition but it is a bit disheartening. The races are harmless, even if one caddie told Tour exec Andy Pazder (via Hoggard), "This is ridiculous, it's like we are a carnival show." You are the show, as are the golfers...even if this particular 10-minute stretch playing one hole deviates from your usual role in that show.
The reason for banning the races seems to have little merit. Pazder cited injury concerns as the reason for doing away with the untraditional form of side entertainment:
"We have advised the folks at Colonial and out in Phoenix to discontinue the caddie races. It was a situation where we developed a little concern about caddies' safety. Running 150 yards puts caddies at risk for injury."
Ugh. It's 150 yards. Running. That last sentence is just on a tee for anyone wanting to make a joke about golf.
Here's maybe the worst-case scenario, neatly archived on the PGATour's own YouTube channel:
How can anyone take the injury risk as a legitimate reason to wipe away something that breaks up the week-to-week monotony of regular tour events? It's not very convincing, especially when it's a twist that generates added interest, particularly among non-traditional golf fans. But it certainly does plenty to add to the argument that golf is a hobby, and a dull one.
I'm not sure why you would take measures to limit or take away from one of the best fan experiences of the season, and one of the most exciting atmospheres of the season. The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale has become a highlight of the season, even if the whole thing is now over-branded and corporatized. I spent the week at Colonial this past May, walking around behind the scenes with the tournament organizers, and the par-3 13th was the perfect amalgamation of golf, corporate sponsorship, and legitimate fan enthusiasm about the Tour's product. It was a wild party, the convergence of booze, a par-3 setting, and caddie races on which to gamble. I hung out with some Fort Worth natives who said the weekend was always reserved on their calendar, and they would be posted up on the 13th every year per tradition. The sponsor, Crowne Plaza, even had placards marketed towards the races and those gambling on them.
In the cost-benefit of it all, it seems that tradition, additional exposure, and generated excitement outweigh the injury risks of a looper having to run. It's an unnecessary loss.