by Peter Fibiger
I’m a news junkie, I admit. I’m not particularly proud of it. In fact, the more I scan the media these days, the more I feel like some confused monk relentlessly flogging himself in the dank chambers of an ancient monastery. But that’s grist for a mill other than this one.
Most of my mornings begin with a generous intake of rich dark coffee while I peruse five or six different sources of information on local, national, and global events. Letters to the Editor in our local paper is a section that always commands my attention, in that it often provides perspective on local events that eludes the editor.
Today’s ritual was only a few minutes along when I came across a letter in which some hapless soul was decrying the loss of jobs across the economy as corporations continue to thrive while “paying lavish salaries to CEOs whose specialty is golf.”
“Now, just hold on one misguided minute!” I thought, as the derisive implications of that comment sank into my caffeine-infused sensibilities. “How did golf ever become the exclusive domain of hyper-wealthy, cigar-chomping, union-busting, merciless abusers of the down-trodden working class?”
The answer, of course, despite the misconception of this offensive letter’s author, is that it didn’t, nor was it ever. While there is no current shortage of private golf facilities, they have been in slow but demonstrable decline while the growth of affordable, public golf over the last 25-30 years is an acknowledged phenomenon.
Long before that, public golf was nurturing talents across Europe, throughout North America, right into our own back yard where a young Fred Couples was picking the pockets of grown men at Jefferson Park Muni in Seattle.
Well before the Coronavirus came along to empty offices and workshops while concurrently driving throngs of their occupants to the grand old game, the writing was on the wall.
And the message was: “Golf is accessible.”
Since the late 1980s the growth of public golf has been evident on a number of fronts. Courses sprung up as complements to an array of real estate developments, the game grew in popularity at a steady clip, and golf became the first sport to enable a television network devoted solely to a game.
When I first became involved with the Pacific Northwest Golf Association it was as a player representative from a public track, Olympic View Golf Club in Victoria, B.C. I attended my first PNGA annual meeting in Seattle, which in the ‘90s drew in excess of 200 attendees. While I wasn’t expecting a room full of only the blue-blooded elite, I was happy to be greeted by folks from across the social and economic spectrums, all dedicated to nothing more than supporting and furthering the best interests of this game that holds us, challenges us, fulfills us, at times deranges us, and keeps us coming back for more.
Over the last three years the PNGA has transitioned into an association of four state and provincial golf associations, each one representing the interests of players from all walks of life.
I’ve been privileged to get to know personally many of the people who volunteer their time and skills to their regional associations, and onward from there to the PNGA.
And I don’t forget the debt owed to the thousands of hard-working individuals who derive their livelihoods from golf. The commitment of all these folks to enhancing the game is beyond criticism, especially from those who demean its unassailable values in an attempt to polish their halos of moral rectitude.
Certainly our game can be a metaphor for any number of realities, but ill-gotten, undeserved prosperity never warranted a place on the list.
Cause for the inequities of life can be found in a thousand different places. A golf course just isn’t one of them. Let’s hope that those who insist on seeing it as nothing but a breeding ground of corporate exploitation find their way to a driving range, or any one of the myriad courses and facilities available to them.
And once there, let’s hope they can lose their prejudice and find instead the magic that awaits them.
Peter Fibiger served on the PNGA Board of Directors for 18 years, including 12 years on the Executive Committee and more than a decade as the PNGA Communications Committee Chairman. He also served as PNGA President from 2018-2021. He lives in Victoria, B.C., and will tell a few tales over a Guinness. Click here to read the full article on Peter’s impact on the PNGA and the golf community.