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Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 22, 2017

PSYCHIC - GOLF ON TELEVISION - Superstars And Familiar Courses Spell TV Success!
By R.J. Smiley

The Psychic watched the final putt drop in the Women's Olympic golf competition on CBS. He had a deflated feeling! The Psychic was pulling for one of his favorite golfers, the little girl from Arkansas, Stacy Lewis, to win a medal. The Psychic realized, it was not Stacy who had let him down. Somehow he felt like he had finished his meal, but he still had that unsatisfied hungry feeling. Why thought the Psychic? The golf in both men's and women's competition was well played. The golf course, created solely for the Olympic competition, was an interesting blend; a brand new golf course built with a centuries old links look. When the wind blew, the course even played like a true seaside golf course.

The Psychic recalled a recent Saturday when rain washed out his Saturday round. He spent the afternoon surfing between three channels, all broadcasting golf, PGA TOUR, LPGA and Champions Tour. Even though one of the events was a so-called Major Championship, the excitement was not there! He could not get into golf on television.

The Psychic's mind flashed back to that week in April when he sat glued to his flat screen during the Masters. He, along with the millions of golf fans who annually watch the Masters, knew the break on every putt. He knew the Sunday pin placements. How will they handle the swirling winds around Amen Corner? Will a middle of the green shot on the treacherous 12th be good enough? Can the leaders hit a cut shot from a hook lie off the 13th fairway, avoiding Rae's Creek? Knowing the pin is always on the front level on #18 all balls feed back down to the hole. A birdie is always possible for a chance to tie.

The Psychic removed his golf cap with the red bill and white crown with USA in block letters. He walked into his study and placed the thread bear turban on his now balding head. The psychic removes the soft chamois-like cloth and becomes transfixed as he peers into the endless distance within the crystal ball.

First the Psychic sees a slowly moving caravan marching rhythmically into the sunset. Men, women and children continue to join this caravan that disappears into the growing darkness. The Psychic notices debris littering the ditches on both sides of the growing horde. As he squints the debris becomes clear. He is shocked to see golf clubs, golf bags and golf shoes that have been discarded.

Suddenly a second caravan comes into view. This group of men, women and children are moving the exact opposite direction as the first caravan. The Psychic flinches as he realizes that the two groups are traveling on parallel tracts, like a giant multi lane freeway. The more he studies the two caravans moving in opposite directions, he sees an ebb and flow in each caravan, like a leaf floating on a stream with a changing current.

The Psychic's head throbs. He rubs his temples as he attempts to make sense of the information that clouds his sphere. Suddenly, a flash bulb from infinity, the caravans represent the people who are flowing out of and into the game of golf. The Psychic recalls reading statistics from the National Golf Foundation. In 2015 the number of golfers in U.S. dropped from 25.7 million to 25.1 million - a drop of 600 thousand players. The flow of new golfers coming into the game was out-paced by the number of players leaving the game.

"The same must be true of people who watch golf on television," the Psychic thought. But thoughts of the Master's came back into his mind. People who enjoy golf on television are not all golfers. Most people who play golf enjoy watching some golf on television, especially the Major Championships.

As the Psychic peers deeply into his cloudless sphere he sees many in the "quit golf" caravan still enjoying golf on television. Once a golfer has attempted to play the illusive game he realizes the degree of skill and practice necessary to rise to the top level of this hardest-of-all sport. The Psychic studies the details of the images and realizes that the bigger the championship, the more golfers, previously golfers and non-golfing sports fans enjoy the entertaining drama of championship golf on television.

Images of Tiger Woods and Michelle Wei come into view on television sets by the millions. The Psychic loved watching Tiger play the game - hitting seemingly impossible shots to snatch the championship trophy from want-a-bees who thought they were good enough. The Psychic recalls that when Tiger was in the hunt to win a championship, any championship, television viewing increased dramatically. Men loved his athletic and powerful swing. They marveled at his imagination, creating shots that seemed impossible - then pulling them off. Women just loved watching Tiger!

The teenaged head turner, Michelle Wei, brought women's golf to primetime like no one had since Jan Stevenson. The six foot tall, slender and very athletic Wei seemed somehow different than the Korean women who have dominated golf for years. A missed putt here an unforced error there, Michelle just could not get it done.

Now Tiger is an afterthought, a Vice-Captain on the 2016 Ryder Cup, the one place he never dominated. Health problems and personal distractions have left Tiger as an asterisk on Jack Nicklaus' record. Michelle Wei, rich from her NIKE endorsements has also faded into golf's sunset.

The Psychic realized that without new superstars, both men's and women's, golf on television will continue to wallow in mediocrity. The 25 million, or so, golfers will continue to support the Golf Channel, but the big events like the Masters, U.S. Open, (British) Open, the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup will attract huge television audiences, but regular golf will not.

At the Masters, the golf fans know the golf course, even casual fans recognize the term "Amen Corner." The Psychic realizes that watching the Masters each year is like watching your favorite movie over and over again, but each time with a different ending.

The other championships, share some of the same drama. The U.S. Open has the best golfers in the world playing tricked-up golf courses where the best players in the world compete to see who will have the luck of the bounce determine the winner. (Watch reruns of the last two U.S. Opens as proof. But great television drama.) The Open is played on a different type of golf course than we American fans normally see. With the tight rotation of familiar courses, again the drama is there. The PGA Championship is the last Major of the year and signals the end of many golfers' season is near. The Ryder Cup is about pride!

The Psychic believes that had the Olympic golf been played at Augusta National Golf Club the television audience would have been record setting. Every shot would be a memory and the Golf medal winner a true Olympic Champion.

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