Mills: Younger generations should appreciate pro golf

Golf gets a bad rap from younger generations, but watching professional golf can be riveting.



Ireland's Shane Lowry celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club, on Sunday, July 21, 2019. (David Davies/PA Wire/Zuma Press/TNS)

Pete Mills, Sports Reporter

I have a list of sporting events I want to attend in my life. While it might have certain similarities to those of other Americans — playoff baseball games, Rose Bowls, the Stanley Cup — there might be one not-so-popular one: the 16th hole at golf’s Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The hole actually goes viral on Twitter every year, but people might not think much of it. The hole is a pretty normal par-3 by PGA Tour standards, sitting at about 162 yards from the tournament tees. But it also is entirely enclosed with a stadium, filled with 20,000 golf fans (or, rather, less casual fans there for other reasons). Videos emerge of fans drinking beer and booing poor shots onto the green — behavior more commonly seen at football games.

Golf gets a bad rap by millennials and other young generations, perhaps understandably. It’s expensive to play, you have to dress up, there aren’t fights. But hear me out here: It’s fun to watch.

A few weekends ago at the British Open at Royal Portrush, Henrik Stenson hit a duck on the 17th hole. He knew right away, yelled, turned away, and snapped his club in half over his knee. While it wasn’t a fight at an NHL game, there’s something to be said about the shock value. You can go to a minor-league hockey game in the Quad Cities and almost expect to see a fight. But seeing a thought-to-be gentlemanly and calm golfer snap his club on international television threw me off.

It’s exciting, too. Fans of baseball could find some solace in golf. Both sports have excellent buildup to the big moments, and the big moments hit you like a truck. Shane Lowry — who won the British Open in July — had the lead heading into the final day at Royal Portrush. He had to, somehow, go home and sleep with the worries about the biggest moments in his entire life awaiting him the next day.

I watched him all day on my computer just so I could see him stroll up the final hole and hoist the Claret Jug. Watching him win the Open in Northern Ireland was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever watched on television. There were great combinations of the traditional pageantry of the sporting event, combined with the nontraditional reactions of excited fans.

As he walked up to the green of the final hole, adoring fans from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland chased behind him. Combined with the political issues, and the past violence in Northern Ireland, and people, it was a very special moment.

It’s also more accessible than you might think. Midwestern golf fans can go to Silvis, Illinois, for the John Deere Classic in mid-July every year, and this year tickets were $30. That’s pretty reasonable when you consider Zach Johnson plays there annually, and Tiger Woods, Jordan Speith, and John Daly have all played there at least once.

The next major tournament isn’t until the Masters in April, but I look forward to hearing the CBS intro with the piano music in the spring. And if you ever get the opportunity to get some tickets to sit on the 16th green at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, get your Iowa-style tailgating pants on.