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Story of the weak

ANDOVER, Kan. – And the best golf weather in America can be found in …

Kansas? You’ve got to be kidding.

The weather here at Flint Hills National Golf Club for the USGA Senior Amateur Championship has been extraordinary. At least until an invasion of rain at midday on Tuesday.

A few second-round matches had been completed, but most were still in progress when the rain gods got rowdy and spilled their party drinks all over the contestants.

Players sat for what seemed an eternity (actually the delay was 1 hour and 35 minutes).

Golfers are such weenies.

OK, OK, the U.S. Golf Association said there was a threat of lightning, although none was seen or heard.

I am not suggesting that golfers should place themselves in harm’s way, but golfers really are a gang of fraidycats. Golfers are soft. They want everything to be picture perfect. They view golf, an outdoor game, as something to be contested under the kind of flawless conditions that might be found in somebody’s living room.

Golfers want to play god, controlling everything around them. No sooner had he won the Deutsche Bank Championship than Phil Mickelson started wailing about the FedEx Cup schedule and his lack of family time.

I, for one, have no patience for his complaints. The real world is full of real people who make much bigger sacrifices for a much longer period of time than Phil Mickelson.

Here at the Senior Amateur, I find myself wondering once again about golf carts. The Senior Am for men and the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur are the only two of 13 USGA championships that allow carts. Too bad.

So virtually everybody rides. Golf, originally a walking game, has been transformed into a ride in the park. What ever happened to stamina? What ever happened to endurance?

Don’t accuse me of being callous. I appreciate the fact that golf carts allow people with physical disabilities to play the game. I believe carts ought to be available to everyone – outside the tournament arena.

A few years ago, the Championship Committee of the USGA came close to endorsing a no-cart policy for the Senior Amateur. It never happened.

Trust me, it never will.

Why?

There are several reasons. The first is that so many golfers have become dependent on carts.

The most obvious reason is the demanding physical nature of match play. Including two practice rounds and two medal rounds, plus six matches, the two finalists in the Senior Amateur and Senior Women’s Amateur end up playing 10 rounds of golf in eight days.

That’s a lot of golf for an AARP member. The minimum senior age is 50 for women, 55 for men.

The most practical reason for golf carts is the nature of modern golf courses. Many are designed with long distances between greens and tees. Some are literally unwalkable.

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks this is intentional, that clubs simply want to produce more cart revenue. Often, though, the golf course design is a function of the real estate demands. To maximize golf course exposure for residents, the layout is spread far and wide.

Anyway, the USGA could not possibly find enough qualifying sites that would allow entrants to walk. And the USGA would never tell golfers that riding is permissible in the qualifiers but not in the championship itself.

So carts are with us for the long haul, whether we like it or not.

Former U.S. Amateur champion Vinny Giles, playing in the Senior Amateur, pointed out another problem with walking: It would be unfair because some players would recruit excellent caddies and some would end up with neophyte caddies.

The last three Senior Amateurs have been played on courses designed by Tom Fazio — do we recognize a trend here? — and all three are located in remote areas. The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga., Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind., and Flint Hills National in rural Kansas are far, far off the beaten path. This is the boonies we’re talking about.

Golf carts are, in a sense, a bonding element. “Hey, Clem, it’s got four wheels and goes like hell. We must still be in America.”

Fast or slow, stop or go, golfers jousting in their chariots still seem like a bunch of weenies to me.

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