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formula of course and slope rating. Easy. If golf balls and drivers

are scaled back for the tour, holes could return to historic lengths, and we could compare superstars across generations. Ban the long and belly putters on the pro tours, but keep them legal for amateurs with bad backs and quirky strokes. Give us our drivers with bigger heads, thinner faces, longer shafts and a hot ball that flies, and some of the widening gap between amateurs and pros will close. If that doesn’t work,

there’s always the frosted coke-bottle glasses and the 24-second shot clock.

No H

ate to get all psycho- therapist on you right out of the gate, but the argument for only one set of rules in golf—same for the pros, same for us—goes to the very core of human existence. For millions of years, deep thinkers have pon- dered the Meaning of Life. “What’s it all about?” they ask. It’s a heck of a ques- tion, although I think those of us in love with golf have an edge on the shrinks. We know the meaning gener- ally has something to do with a junket to Scotland, a perfectly struck drive, or a tee time at Pebble Beach, preferably with beers in the Tap Room afterward. I would submit that the profound joys we derive from the game come from the fact that we are playing

the exact same game—same golf balls, same drivers, same golf courses—as the very best in the galaxy. In other words: Let’s

say that at one time in your life, everything came together—drive, 5-iron, a breaking, curling putt—and you made birdie on No. 8 at Pebble Beach. A “3” on the hole Jack Nicklaus calls the greatest par-4 in golf? The moment is irreplaceable, the sun glinting off of Carmel Bay as you exult to the sky, waves crashing below to provide the soundtrack of the heavens. Years later, during a U.S.

Open, as you sit on your couch mowing Cheetos and fielding a phone call from your accountant informing you of an IRS audit, you look up and see Phil Mick- elson do the same thing— drive it with the same driver you use, smoke the very same 5-iron you carry in your bag, and roll home the exact golf ball you play for birdie. And just for that

moment, you are filled with a tremendous sense of being. You are the Master of the Golf Universe, just like Lefty!

This very fact, that

we can enjoy moments in our otherwise aimless exis- tence that allow us to soar like eagles, to forget your impending tax audit, or a nagging spouse or a boss who wants you to work weekends, is as pro- found an argument I can

make for the same rules for pros and amateurs. To escape the mundane me- andering of daily existence, and become great, for just one moment? Totally worth it. How much fun would it be to make that same birdie on No. 8, but know you did it with a souped-up, nuclear driver the pros can’t use, or a space-age golf ball deemed illegal for the pros? Answer: It would be no fun at all. You may as well go dunk on an eight-foot high elementary school hoop, then proclaim yourself Kobe Bryant to all your friends. There are other, less

macro reasons to have the same rules for pros and us. One of them is what I like to call “S.E.S.,” or Smug Equipment Satisfaction. This is the superior feeling a duffer like you or I can attain by buying the same driver Rory McIlroy uses, then carry- ing it in our bag with an extreme sense of pride.

You make sure your

playing partners notice the driver, then when you catch their eyes, nod and say: “Oh, this? Yeah, Rory plays this. So do I.” At that moment, you are on the same level as the golf deities. Granted, it is a material

satisfaction, less spiritual than your “Birdie Bond” you shared with Mickelson at Pebble in the afore- mentioned scenario. But materialism is a part of life. We can’t all be ascetic

priests. Adam Smith didn’t write “Wealth of Nations” because he spent time in the lotus position, pondering the clouds. Sometimes, having stuff is cool. Imagine the lack of

enjoyment from knowing that your smashed drive is because you’re playing a golf club so forgiving, it has the sweet spot the size of a VW bus. Nothing worth having is given away so easily, friend.

Golf is just about the

only sport where we can measure ourselves against the greats. Tom Watson chipped in from behind No. 17 green at Pebble Beach to win a U.S. Open. You too, can do that. On the other hand, you may be a huge Tom Brady fan— and you can’t exactly say throwing a NERF football to your buddy in the park- ing lot tailgate simulates the same thrill as your hero Brady. Keep the rules the same for both amateurs and pros. Let us have that elusive feeling of immortality. Let us know that we can, on those very special occasions, replicate the same golf shots, with the same golf balls and same golf clubs as our visor- wearing idols. And if you want to

throw in the same win- ner’s check at the end of each round, we duffers will endorse that too.

Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show “Murph and Mack” and was the San Francisco Chronicle’s golf writer from 2001-2004.

SPRING 2012 / NCGA.ORG / 21

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