The Pursuit of Par

Golf fanaticism in Rancho Bernardo

In addition to magazine ads, TV ads show long, straight shots being hit with a particular club, I recently saw a golf infomercial touting the new Taylor Made Burner Bubble woods and irons. It showed regular golfers (like you and me) hitting shots with their own clubs, then hitting the same shots with the Burner Bubbles — which, of course, were much more accurate. These scenes were interspersed with interviews, where three or four pros ascribed improvement in their game to the Burner Bubble. How effective is this kind of advertising? I was hitting balls at the Stardust Country Club in Mission Valley, and I noticed that 10 of the 15 golfers on the range were using Burner Bubbles. Some even had snazzy Taylor Made golf bags to go with them.

Reading about golf and watching it on TV are other characteristics of the golf fanatic. Says Logan, “There’s constant reading on ways to improve your game and how the ball is hit. There’s literature out there too. You can read about [Ben] Hogan’s career in Golf in the Kingdom, which is very mystical.”

Cooper has the Golf Channel in his cable TV package; he watches it daily. “It’s golf, golf, golf, 24 hours a day and seven days a week,” he explains. “I always turn it on when I come home to see what they have on. If there’s a tournament on, I’m watching it.”

The second type of golf-equipment fanatic is in love with the clubs he owns. I fall into this category. I’ve had the same set of outdated MacGregors since I started playing in 1987. I found them covered with rust in my friend’s attic. He sold them to me for $40; I steel-wooled the rust off and put them to use. An old golfer once told me they were circa 1962 models, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that I can’t make myself use other clubs — clubs that should be easier to hit and more accurate — because they don’t feel like my MacGregors. During my recent slip back into golf addiction, I bought a new set of clubs, just because that’s what golfers do. I tried them for a couple of rounds, but now I’m back to my MacGregors. I just didn’t like the feel of the other clubs.

Cooper’s the same way. “Once I find something that works for me, I stick with it.”

A third type of golf-equipment fanatic could be part of either group. He’s the collector. “I’m not only into golf as in the playing portion of it,” says Heylman, “but I collect things. For instance, I call all the golf courses that have major championships, and I order hats and towels. I have hats and towels that I’ve never worn and probably never will. I’m starting a collection. I’ve got about 75 or 80 items now.”

Like Heylman, Cooper is a collector but more of clubs than accessories. “I own four sets of clubs,” he explains. “One is the starter set my father gave me when I was a kid. Then there are the ones I’m using now. And I knew an old man who gave me two sets of clubs. The irons are really old. One is a set of MacGregor Tour Blades he said Jack Nicklaus played with. Pm missing the 7-iron, but I’ve got a club-finder out trying to locate one. They’re from the mid-’60s. This guy also gave me a set of Peterson cavity-backs. They were the first clubs made with a little cavity in back.”

Fantasy is another symptom of golf fanaticism. Addicted golfers have dreams of golf grandeur. As far as I’m concerned, I’d just like to break 80. But a true fanatic? “My ultimate goal would be becoming head professional at a nice country club somewhere,” Cooper says. “I’d like to go abroad and teach over there. I’m also looking at Hawaii. My dream would be winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in the year 2002, when it’s going back there. Yeah, I’d love to go through all of that, being the winner of the U.S. Open. That’s been a dream of mine since I started playing.”

Heylman’s golf dreams aren’t as grand. “I know my limitations. I’m about a ten handicap. I’ll probably go down a little bit more, but I’m more interested in management. I want to run golf courses.”

We know the symptoms of the golf fanatic, but what is the cause of his addiction? What about the game of golf hooked Cooper in the first place? “I’ve always loved this game,” he says, “because it’s a mental game, and it’s a game you play against yourself. It’s a game of honor and it’s a lot of fun. You’ll always get better, but you’ll never get good enough. Also, it’s a good way to meet people and really get to know them.... If you’re out on a golf course, you’re going to be there at least four hours, and you go through a lot of emotions playing golf, so you really get to see what this person is like.

“I think the biggest appeal is the PGA on TV. It’s a popular sport now, and it draws a lot of attention, and people see that and they want to do it."

Cooper also believes in the constant nature of the game. “The game doesn’t change; it’s always been the same. It’s progressed, but the guts of the game are still the same. It’s been that way for 150 years or longer.”

Logan agrees and suggests that golf's natural setting is also an attraction. “Golf courses are beautiful,” he explains. “They treat the environment well, and they usually are a habitat to nature, not only flora but fauna — all kinds of wildlife. I play in Lake Wildwood in Northern California, and there are deer, partridges, pheasants, wild turkeys, and ducks. Early morning, you get out there and you don’t know what you are going to run into right on the course.”

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