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No Fear On The Links

It's the golf season. Tiger Woods is a big topic of conversation, people are playing hooky from work and school, and men are walking around in pants that look like they're made of leftover drapery material.

It's also the time of year that some nasty critics mock the game and question whether golf is really a sport and whether golfers are true athletes. I'm not one of those mockers.

I believe golfers are among the bravest and most dedicated athletes in the world. They routinely risk getting struck by lightning just to get a few more holes in. They'll play in tornadoes if they've got a good game going. They're even strong enough to force a smile after their opponent sinks a thirty-foot putt.

No one should ever question the courage and dedication of a golfer. Instead, in these troubled times, they should be held up as the brave heroes that our country desperately needs.

Years ago, I was visiting some friends who lived on a hill when a fire broke out below. Their home overlooked a gully, both sides of which were in flames. At the floor of the gully was a golf course. We watched as firefighters arrived down in the golf course. But they weren't there just to prevent the fire from destroying the course. They were there to insist that the golfers stop playing because of the raging fire. Reluctantly, the golfers interrupted their game and went home. To a golfer, playing in the midst of a fire is just another "hazard."

That's why I was surprised by a story in the news last week. Police raided a private tournament at the Hidden Valley Golf Club in Norco, California. Authorities claimed that tents were set up all over the fairways, and prostitutes were selling their services inside the tents. It's hard for me to believe.

What golfer would interrupt his game for anything as trivial as sex? You can have sex anytime, but time for a round of golf is precious. If a golfer hit a good drive, and just then a beautiful naked woman miraculously appeared next to his ball, he'd probably say, "Get out of the way. I've got a good shot at a birdie here."

So, this raid must have been some kind of mistake. Golfers are not going to interrupt their game for something they could do away from the golf course.

There was an equally baffling golf story in New York City last month. Apparently, there is a controversy involving the Ferry Point Park golf course which is supposed to be built on a stretch of waterfront in the Bronx. It was a pet project of former Mayor Giuliani. Jack Nicklaus' firm designed it. It is a spectacular location, with waterfront views and vistas of the Empire State Building. Proponents bill it as the "Pebble Beach of the East," and want to hold PGA golf tournaments there someday.

So, what's the problem? For one thing, the land - which used to be a garbage and toxic waste dump - is sinking. Also, methane gas is being released into the air. In fact, brushfires fed by methane from decomposing waste have been so common in summer months that a fire engine has often been stationed next to the park. But a real golfer would still ask the question - so, what's the problem?

Golfers wouldn't mind hitting a ball while sinking into a gurgling poisonous ooze. They'd just want that hole to be a Par 5. True golfers would not be deterred by a little bit of toxic waste. If they could get a good tee time, they'd play inside of a nuclear reactor.

In fact, golf might be the answer to one of the most controversial questions of our day - what to do with nuclear waste? States argue with each other and with the federal government over where to put the evil stuff.

Nobody wants a nuclear waste dump in his or her backyard. However, if these festering fields of radioactivity would simply be turned into golf courses, their parking lots would be packed. And if there were any immoral tents on those courses, they'd be filled with those people who prey upon innocent citizens by trying to sell them something a lot more sinister than illicit sex - golf lessons.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver

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