I enjoyed watching the Masters Golf tournament on TV last weekend. I don’t always watch golf but the Masters in a class by itself in terms of visual appeal. The venerable clubhouse, the pristine fairways and the manicured greens are a sight for sore eyes. And then there is the golf itself. I was rooting for Jordan Spaeth as I have been since he first burst on the golf scene and it appeared he had this one in the bag until he faltered with victory in sight. In the course of two holes, he went from being six strokes in front to three strokes behind. But even his collapse did not detract from my enjoyment of the game.
There are those who claim that golf is not a” real” sport.” These critics sniff that” Golfers don’t have to run or jump, and the ball they hit is stationary!” Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean it is any less of a sport. In my book, a sport ( as distinguished from a game or a pastime) is a contest of skill or strength that attracts spectators. A game, on the other hand, is of interest only to the participants e.g rummy, mahjongg and all board games. A pastime is generally a solitary activity, a ” pass time” e.g bouncing a ball against a wall, playing solitaire etc. These may not be the dictionary meanings of the words but they work for me.
The idea that sports have to include running or jumping or hitting a ball coming at you at 90 miles an hour is not something I subscribe to. Golf does not require any of these but it does involve skills, both physical and mental. It takes physical strength and skill to muscle the golf ball 300 yards down the fairway, to dig oneself out of a bunker or to sink a putt on a wickedly rolling green. And it requires probably more mental fortitude than any other sport. Every shot is a potential pitfall and , in the case of pro golf, tens of thousands may be riding on that next shot.
Another sport that is often derided as a parlor game is table tennis or ” ping pong” as it is condescendingly called. Yes, ping pong is a parlor game but table tennis is a sport. To know the truth of this, you should watch a competitive match being played by good players. YouTube has any number of videos including world championships and European championships. The lightning quick reflexes and the agility displayed by these top class players are unbelievable.
As with everything, one does not appreciate the difficulty of a sport until one tries to play it oneself. I found that out when I tried hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range. Try as I did, I simply could not get the ball to go where I wanted and the longest drive I managed was 125 yards and that only once. As for putting, I understand how it can frustrate duffers so much that they fling their putter into a pond.
No one can convince me that golf and table tennis are not sports.