Northern Trust Golf

The decision of Bryson DeChambeau, seen here putting on the third green at the Northern Trust golf tournament on Aug. 21, to not get a COVID vaccination and thus possibly infecting others has columnist Dennis Marek rethinking his status as a fan.

My wife has often noted that I may judge whether a person is a good person or a bad person based solely on whether they are nice to me or not. To some extent, I plead guilty. I always look for a redeeming quality in people even when there is something not quite right about them whether it be their truthfulness, honesty, or merely kindness.

Perhaps that glossing-over characterization has also affected how I perceive famous people, be they politicians, actors or especially athletes. Some of my major mistakes were in articles where I gave praise to a person or an industry only to find out later how wrong and perhaps naïve I was.

One of my more colossal ones was praising Phoenix University for its online education. I could see the need for such college education for those who were home-bound either by location or by their personal demands. As it turned out, this college system was really ripping off the students financially for what they got in return. There also came a disbelief by employers that a Phoenix degree meant much.

The second article that became off-center was with Lance Armstrong. He was a cycling champion who did all he could to be the best in the world. His determination was something to be marveled at. After the article, the truth of his doping became known worldwide. His advertising contracts were canceled and he disappeared into outer space. While I did point out so many of his good points, these were later overcome by reality. He would use any means to win.

An article that I did not write was of the ongoing fight between professional golfers Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. I am not quite sure how it all started but for some reason, I was never a big fan of Koepka’s. Sure, he won the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018 and also won the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019. Holding both titles at the same time was quite unique.

But we come to 2021. Phil Michelson was a month shy of 51. The year before, he was an announcer during the PGA. But here he was back weighing 20 pounds less and looking really fit. In the final round, Mickelson had a small lead and was paired with Koepka. People were allowed to attend the event, and hoards followed the twosome. Clearly, the older golfers cheered for Phil for a couple of reasons. He has a charming personality, and he is old.

As he played the last few holes, it became clear that Koepka was not going to beat him. The crowd became a bit noisier and on two occasions while on the tee, Koepka turned and glowered at the crowd. Right then and there I was done with him. This was Phil’s day and without fan support, all these pricey tournaments would be worth a lot less.

Later, as Koepka was being interviewed, apparently DeChambeau walked behind him on the TV screen. Koepka became quite enraged that DeChambeau was scraping his spikes or making a bit more noise than he should have. And the world soon learned of the dislike between these two golfers.

DeChambeau is a totally different story. For years, there were some very strict rules for the dress and character of these PGA professionals. For example, facial hair was a no-go. Clean shaved and neat attire. Shaving appears to be gone, but they still cannot wear shorts. Cheering for oneself was just not acceptable conduct either.

So Mr. DeChambeau, after average golfing on the tour, spent an off-season building his strength. He returned last year as a new specimen. He was hitting the golf ball yards and yards longer than the rest. And he started to win, including the 2020 U.S. Open.

This year, he was playing in a tournament on a par five hole. Everyone hit the tee shot to the side of a lake and then hit over it on their second shot. But not Bryson. He teed it up and drove it some 380 yards right over the lake shortening the hole by at least 150 yards. He cheered himself as did the fans following him. Koepka later even criticized this type of behavior. But pleasing the crowd, be it in person or on TV, is what the PGA is all about. This man added a new dimension through his physical hard work.

So I became a DeChambeau fan. He was on the list to play for our country in the Tokyo Olympics. He tested positive for the delta COVID-19 variant and could not attend. Sad. But wait. He was never vaccinated. His reasoning was that he was a healthy, young individual who didn’t need it.

That is possibly true, but he could, and probably did, carry the virus to others who do not have the strength and health that he does. He feels he made the right decision, and back in February, he might have been right. But this summer, with all we know now? Come on.

So, now I don’t know whose fan to be. One is self-centered and then other is what? Self-centered? Then again, we all have faults, some just more than others. Maybe I have to find a new favorite.

Dennis Marek can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or through his personal email at dmarek@ambltd.com.