He’s Teed Off at Golf Coverage

By: Joe Strupp

Let?s get one thing clear: I am not a golf fan. I am not good at it, I do not enjoy watching it, and most things about it either bore me or offend me. Hitting this little ball across a vast wasteland of greenery into a hole, and paying way too much to do so, strikes me as absurd.

So you can understand how I feel with the PGA Championship happening right now at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., just a few miles from my home. And, as a subscriber to The Star-Ledger of nearby Newark, I am already sick of the paper’s tournament coverage.

For more than two weeks, the Advance Publications daily hyped the event with all the subtly of a nine iron to the forehead. Dozens of stories about the four-day tee-off fest were published in the newspaper, including two special sections this past Sunday alone encompassing 44 pages.

Articles on Springfield, Baltusrol, and everything from the rumors of Tiger Woods temporary residence during the event to tips for getting an autograph have graced the paper’s pages. For an anti-golfer like me, this is near-torture.

Some of the articles have indeed been informative, such as those advising visitors how to get in and out of the somewhat secluded golf club, and warning nearby residents about the vast influx of golfers, fans and related marketing types about to swoop down on the otherwise quiet suburban area.

I personally enjoyed the piece by staff writer Brad Parks detailing the history of the man for whom the club is named, Baltus Roll, whose farm once graced the property where Tiger and other top-rated golfers will battle for supremacy this weekend. Roll’s name became famous long before any caddies walked along his land when two men pulled him from his bed in 1831 and strangled him to death in a failed robbery. The eventual creators of the two-course golf club chose to honor his legacy when the club opened in 1891.

Still, for every useful article during the past few weeks, several other pieces that can only be described as overkill have filled the Star-Ledger’s pages. Articles reporting on the activities for PGA golfers’ wives, the plight of the tournament’s caterer, and a list of each player’s tee times have been too many, in my view. Few if any of them mention the negative side of such an enormous event flooding the already overcrowded area. Neither is the paper showing the overpriced expense involved in shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for country club memberships like Baltusrol.

For that matter, how about the racism involved? How many black or other minority members does Baltusrol have? With many of the stories centered on Tiger Woods, an interesting, if not simply fair, approach would be to look at how hard it might be for a non-Tiger Woods minority to play at Baltusrol.

One story did look at the few black pro golfers on the tour, but nothing so far has taken a local approach at the famed club itself, and its poor diversity.

I know, I know, this sounds like sour grapes. As a rabid football, baseball and hockey fan, I have found myself wallowing in such hyped coverage prior to Super Bowls, World Series and the Stanley Cup finals. My wife can tell you that when the New Jersey Devils won the championship hockey cup in 2000 and 2003, I bathed my eyes in reams of newspaper copy from the same Star-Ledger. Its reports on the build-up, fan craziness, and post-championship rallies in the Meadowlands parking lot were reading heaven for me.

I also have a small collection of copies of the New York Post and Daily News from the Yankees recent World Series string of wins, each of which likely contain a number of needless stories aimed only at filling advertising-sponsored pages.

Fair enough. Newspapers nationwide have always used such sporting events to overfill the paper, and many would say so what? Nowadays, with papers fighting for every reader — and ad dollar — why shouldn’t they use the big event to cash in? Everyone else does. True, and maybe I am alone in my objections. But, such overkill often seems to do the opposite.

So, this Sunday, when Tiger Woods or Greg Norman or, who knows, Arnold Palmer, or whoever else is strolling up the green toward the 18th hole for victory, do not look for me to be nearby, or even watching on TV.

Most likely, I will be home. Possibly re-reading coverage of the Yankees’ and Devils’ last championships.

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