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June 27, 2014

DODD: What the heckle

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Anybody who has seen me hit a golf ball would never equate me with Valhalla Golf Course. But the two kind of coincided this week for me.

My friend and golf nemesis Bobby is planning to play Valhalla with some other friends.

If you are a nongolfer, this might not seem like a big deal. However, Valhalla is the mecca for anyone who wishes to experience the ultimate in amateur golf. The PGA Championship will be held there in August.

It’s where Lefty, Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have played. It’s the kind of place that you have to know someone who knows someone or be someone to play. It’s where money, power and prestige meet golf. In other words, it’s where people like me and my usual crowd were never meant to play.

In fact, the main reason Valhalla exists is pretty much so that those people will never have to play golf with people like myself and my friends.

But some of my friends knew an ex-caddie whose father is an ex-professional baseball player or something like that who is getting them on to play. That’s what Bobby says, but everyone who knows him knows you can’t believe much of what he says about anything.

He says playing Valhalla has to be on my golf bucket list. The only thing I think about Valhalla is that I would probably need a bucket of balls to play the course. I am not sure the club rules even permit you to look for lost balls.

I have to admit Bobby is a better golfer than me, as I have never beaten him straight up, although I know I can and will someday. The fact that I know I can means that he is not the kind of guy who should play Valhalla.

I was told this week that with the mandatory minimum caddie tip per round will run each golfer in the group around $225 for 18 holes. I have another friend who is about as mediocre a golfer as me that paid much more to play a round of golf his wife bought for him at Pebble Beach as a birthday gift. It’s a strange phenomenon that bad golfers will pay outrageous money to play on a course which will expose just how bad they are at golf.

One of my regular golfing partners named Brad implored me to also write about another aspect of Bobby on a golf course. I must first explain that golf is the ultimate gentleman’s game. There are self-imposed rules that require course etiquette, honesty and discipline. In other words, there is a reverent respect for the game and how it is to be played.

With that said, when I play with a semi-regular foursome, we have a heckler in the group. Heckling in golf goes against any gentlemanly rule of etiquette. Our guy is a master at psychological warfare that grates on your nerves and gets under your skin more as the round goes.

When you are getting ready to tee off and there are trees he will say, “Don’t think about the trees on your left.” If there is a water hazard in sight as you address your ball on the tee, he will simply make a sound, “Plunk!” just before you swing.

Our buddy Denny — with whom I have never played golf — overheard us complaining about heckling on the golf course, and he defended it by comparing it to every other sport. In basketball, people cheer and wave before a free throw. In baseball, fans heckle constantly. In fact, other than a pseudo-sport like bowling, it does seem like heckling is a part of the crowd’s enjoyment of the action on the field, floor or court.

So perhaps Bobby is just ahead of his time. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before the crowds start chanting, “Sex, Sex, Sex!” during Tiger Woods’ swing during next year’s Masters at Augusta, while throwing Trojans on the course. Maybe the new trend will make golfing spectators feel more interactive. Can’t you just imagine the crowd chanting, “IRS, IRS, IRS!” and tossing tax forms at Phil Mickleson at this year’s British Open?”

Since Tiger has been out, ratings have suffered for the PGA golf events on television and it’s pretty obvious that professional golf post-Tiger will need a new gimmick. What better venue to experience the wave of golf’s heckling future than Valhalla, which is ready to host the PGA Championship in just a few weeks?

I always had this idea that ultra classy and talented golfers play at Valhalla. Then I thought that golfing prowess isn’t really the main requirement to belong to and play there. It’s simply people who are very filthy rich.

Why would I not think that there are some filthy rich guys who play there who probably stink at golf as much as I do, but are fiercely competitive?

So for any wealthy golfer who belongs to Valhalla that stinks at golf and is competitive who wants to invite me as their guest so they can have a chance at beating somebody — well, I am available. Anybody who knows me knows that if I ever turn down a free round of golf my condition must be not only terminal but the end is close at hand.

I am even willing to split the mandatory caddie fee 50-50.

Heck, you can even invite Bobby the heckler along to ensure I fall apart by the fifth hole. The guy is brutal to anyone’s golf game.

Just wait until you are just about to execute a putt and hear a loud snort in the background. As you angrily glare at him, he will act all innocent and respond, “What? I have a sinus condition!”

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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