The End Of The Innocence

By JP McNaney






In 1989, Eagles frontman Don Henley released his third solo album titled The End of the Innocence.  The title track reached #8 on the Billboard charts and was Henley’s fifth top ten as a solo artist.

It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college when it was released and if it wasn’t on the radio every hour, one of my friends would play the tape.  The video was played constantly on MTV (when MTV actually played music videos).

I cannot remember the last time I heard the song, and it hadn’t even crossed my mind in several years.  Then, out of the blue, the song was used as bumper music on a radio talk show.  Coincidentally, I was reading an article at the time about the latest signing by LIV Golf of Tyrrell Hatton.

I found the song very appropriate to the feelings I was having about the entire LIV v PGA TOUR battle.

To be fair, many of the lyrics are not very applicable to the topic of golf’s infrastructure but the overall sentiment certainly did, at least in my mind.

Golf, and professional golf in particular, has been this fairy tale where dreams come true.  All the elements of a great story play out in real time right before our eyes each week.

Jack Niclaus wins his 6th Masters in 1986 at the age of 46, after most people thought his days of being competitive at Augusta were long gone.  A shy former junior tennis player from Sweden named Annika Sorenstam comes onto the scene in 1994 and quickly dominates the LPGA Tour winning 97 times worldwide before calling it a career in 2008.  Tiger Woods comes out of Southern California junior golf to play in the 2010 LA Open…at 15 years old!!!

These examples are just a small snippet of incredible, heart-warming fairy tales where “they all live happily ever after.”

As Henley’s song points out, “And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales.”

The next line in the song tells us all that the fairy tale is over and reality will set in. “The lawyers dwell on small details since daddy had to fly.”

That is exactly where we are now in the world of professional golf.

When the battle between LIV and the PGA TOUR started, the war of words seemed like both sides were using atomic bombs to end it quickly.  The TOUR relied on a strategy of moral superiority, given that the upstart league was funded by the Saudi royal investment fund the PIF.  LIV, with Phil Mickelson as its mouthpiece, called the TOUR out for “obnoxious greed” and that the new format that LIV promised would bring golf to the masses.

Three years later and we now see the Department of Justise investigating the PGA TOUR for alleged antitrust violations.  Congress held hearings involving the PIF, the DP World Tour and the PGA TOUR after a surprising announcement of a framework agreement between all parties last June.

The initial deadline for the agreement was the end of 2023.  That date came and went and all that was agreed upon was to extend the deadline and keep negotiating.

Meanwhile, LIV Golf’s poaching of PGA TOUR stars continued.  John Rahm was arguably the biggest get for LIV in December.

While the battle goes on, the war of words has taken on a much more conciliatory tone.  Rory McIlroy, the TOUR’s loudest defender, is now saying if an agreement between the parties comes to fruition, that there should be no penalties for those players that jumped ship.

It seems as though everyone, on both sides, recognized that this is our new reality.  The fairy tale is over and no matter how much everyone hates where we are now, it is what it is.

As in Henley’s song, we are all now resigned to the fact that nothing is ever going to be the same.  Of course, there will still be wonderful stories that leave us nostalgic for days gone by.  The most recent example of that was the win by amateur Nick Dunlap at this year’s American Express.

Ironically, the last to accomplish the feat was Phil Mickelson 33 years ago at the Northern Telecom Open.

But the reality is that nothing is ever truly going to be the same no matter what comes next.  Whether or not the TOUR and LIV ever come to an agreement, the damage of the last three years is done.

This leaves us all where Henley left it in his chorus.

“Offer up your best defense but this is the end, this is the end of the innocence.”