GOLF’s 40 Under 40: Politics vs. Principles?
By Conor Nagle under European PGA Tour

Ryo Ishikawa: Maybe someday he'll be a star like Jumbo Ozaki!

GOLF has just published its 40 Under 40, a list of what it terms ‘the most influential people in golf under 40-years-old.’ An eclectic blend of names subdivided under headings like Players, Business, Media and the extra-vague Good of the Game, with “nominees for [the] ranking… solicited from a variety of sources, including… the PGA Tour, the LPGA, the United States Golf Association, The First Tee, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the American Society of Golf Course Architects, leading equipment manufacturers, and the editorial staff of the Sports Illustrated Golf Group, blah, blah, blah…” and the finalists picked by a panel of GOLF’s editors, everyone’s bound to have their gripes– it’s part of the point. But some of the inclusions (and exclusions) speak louder than others:

Players: Interesting that the first three names on this section’s (non-alphabetical) list are American: Rickie Fowler, Natalie Gulbis and Lexi Thompson. With the grand total of one professional victory between them, they’re an object lesson in the stange and insular fixations of US golf journalism.

Fowler, for all his substantial promise, is falling early and unwitting victim of the exaggerated expectations of his sponsors and media cheerleaders. He’s become a blank screen on which is projected a boardroom-designed idea of youth and cool. His blurb, in the unmistakable register of a middle-aged man trying too hard, claims he ‘pairs a skater cut and love of motocross with a killer homegrown swing.’ It’s like watching your drunk uncle trying to dance at a wedding.

Lexi Thompson’s inclusion is pretty much unquestionable, but does throw up a bit of an awkward moment. ‘The LPGA hasn’t had a young player grab the public’s interest and hold it since Nancy Lopez back in the 1970s,’ apparently. And why would that be? Look five places below Lexi and you’ll find a certain Hawaiian by the name of Michelle Wie. She was 2006’s messiah of women’s golf and remains a big draw largely in spite of the schizophrenic efforts of many to compare her to Nancy Lopez in one breath and Satan himself in next. Thompson will be fortunate to escape the same fate.


Rickie Fowler: marketing orgasm

Let’s not even get into the mass of contradiction that is coverage of Natalie Gulbis.

And what of the internationals? No room for major-winner and European numero uno, Martin Kaymer? Matteo Mannasero? Danny Lee? What about Padraig Harrington, the most successful European of his generation, whose major victories have acted as the catalyst behind many of the strides made by a new generation of international talent? Okay, that was a cheeky one, but seriously, where are the others?

McIlroy gets the nod, though, along with Ryo Ishikawa, whose stunningly patronising blurb claims he ‘seems destined to be a star on the international level à la Isao Aoki and Jumbo Ozaki, and maybe snare Japan’s long-sought first men’s major championship.’ I think it’s safe to say that Ishikawa, with eight professional wins and a flourishing business empire under his control, already has ‘Isao Aoki status’ a distant somewhere in his rear-view mirror.

Donnie Trump: proof that bad hair is genetic

Business and Media: No Geoff Shackelford. List legitimacy FAIL.

And where in the blazes is WUP?! No room for the blog that brought you such posts as Know Your Asians and Nice Effing Pants, but there are berths for a chunk of IMG’s management team, Tim Herron’s sister, the woman who invented the LPGA walk-and-talk interview (?) and slimy Donald Trump, Jr. (just call him ‘Donnie’), the man behind the admirable quest to bring his father’s unique brand of vulgarity to rural Scotland, steamrolling the hopes and aspirations of an entire village in the process? I’m calling shenanigans on this one.

While my own comments are fairly partisan, I’d love to hear some of yours. Who’s been neglected? Who’s overrated? Am I being far too critical?


Conor N.