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The price of preciousness
A horse, it is said, can be taken to water but what you cannot do is make it drink. Mrs Amy Sabbatini (pictured), an American lady married to a South African golfer of the same surname, surely enjoyed something of an education but her mentors clearly failed to make her learn. In response to a flippant remark Paul Casey made during the course of an interview with an 'on the make' Sunday newspaper reporter, who quoted him as saying that we 'properly hate Americans,' Mrs Sabbatini appeared at the World Cup in Seville with a T-shirt emblazoned appropriately with the words, 'Stoopid Amerikan'. Clearly, if someone as clever as Mrs Sabbatini could interpret Casey's words so adroitly, then he was in trouble in the USA.

And so it has proved the case. Titleist, the company name splashed across Casey's golf bag, was sufficiently outraged to terminate his contract. Mr Wally Uihlein, chairman and CEO of the Acushnet Corporation was completely unambiguous in his statement: 'Mr Casey's comments do not reflect the views of the Acushnet Company.' This is particularly gratifying to know since Acushnet is a well-established company run by wise and responsible men. But they are clearly men with little sense of humour and even less understanding. Indeed, they are, like Mrs Sabbatini, alert to cheap publicity and the opportunity to pander to the lowest intellectual common denominator with an eye to patriotic sales. Acushnet had nous enough to hold Casey to his contract to the end of the year, thus ensuring that their logo is seen beside the World Cup. Presumably it is only after Jan 1st that Casey and Mr Uihlein's views become non-concordant.

Paul Casey is light-hearted young man with all of the vigour of youth and the accompanying inverse relationship of insight and tact that is part and parcel of being young and feeling on top of the world. He is not a brain surgeon and does not aspire to an understanding of rocket science. He has not yet appreciated that journalists posing as pals will use and abuse whenever the opportunity presents. He is yet naive enough to believe that Sunday broadsheets are responsible and discerning and that their sports editors can think consequentially. Casey simply reacted to a silly question in the way that any young guy with a sense of humour would react. It was suggested to him that, considering Britain and America are allies, the rivalry attached to the Ryder Cup is somewhat exaggerated. His response was surely as expected, tongue in cheek and poking fun at the whole ballyhoo of the event, 'oh, we properly hate them.'

This is a response assuredly said with a smile, but it only took a tabloid to take it up with an addendum, in banner headline, 'Americans are Stupid, I hate them', for America to be up in arms. Characteristically, no one in the US seems to have checked out what he actually said and the context in which he said it; this says more about the US press, US corporate business and US paranoia than anything else. The US media and the Acushnet company should examine itself carefully, take stock of the tenderness of its sensitivity and ask what happened to it s sense of humour.

Paul Casey has spent most of his grown-up life in the US and enjoyed all the benefits of a golf scholarship at a good US university. His girl friend is American; he will spend Thanksgiving with her family in the USA. He has acquired all of the characteristics of the young, successful, accomplished American male. If he retains a little of the irony that accompanies steak-and-kidney pie he has obtained more of Mom's apple pie and home cookin' of the American way of life. Paul Casey does not hate Americans nor does he harbour any anti-American sentiments. What has transpired through opportunistic newspaper reporting and irresponsible out -of-context quoting is tragic and anyone involved should do some thorough soul searching.

Under the circumstances it says much for Casey and Luke Donald, his fellow mid-Atlantic national, that despite all of the 'stoopid' background shenanigans they could carry off the World Cup in Seville. That they achieved this representing England is about as irrelevant as the event itself. Spain apart, the national teams were hardly representative of the best available. America fielded Scott Verplank and Bob Tway. Where, you may ask was Woods, Mickelson, Love and the like? Well, they were off flying their own personal flag elsewhere, doubtless in the best patriotic spirit with the blessings of Acushnet and other US corporate interests supporting them.

Apart from doing something about the press hype and ballyhoo that has come to be a part of the Ryder Cup, American corporate golf and its media moguls should do something about their insularity, preciousness and sense of the ridiculous. The British have enjoyed a long love affair with America and the American way of life that, although tinged with the spice of avarice, will endure despite the best efforts of corporate America. The British perception that the Americans have always had it good and have relished their superiority has resulted in a healthy attitude of competition and nothing tickles the palate of British humour more than pulling the proverbial American leg. Casey, however, would appear to have pulled one American leg too many.

Without his understanding it, Paul Casey's humour fell on stony ground where it was gobbled up by hungry scavengers. The lad meant no evil. He simply expressed a humour that has long been enjoyed in pro golf. After all, if you only drive a Ferrari while your American counterpart drives a 15-bedroom Winnebago as big as a truck, avarice is an understandable feeling and humour is your only response.

©    22 - NOVEMBER 2004

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