Change is inevitable even in a sport as conservative as golf.
When Brooks Koepka sank his six-foot par putt to win the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black he shouted out something which was lost in the roar from the crowd.
But it looked a lot like he said “F… yeah!” as he fist pumped and growled. Welcome to golf, 2019 style. Trash talk, bash talk, brash talk.
The media seemed to stumble and worry as they described the demeanor of golf’s new anti-hero.
Koepka is the guy that predicted his own victory and is not shy in stating that his focus, his strength and his mind are stronger than his nearest competitor. In a game long noted for its upper-class etiquette, manners and polish Brooks Koepka is in contrast brash, bold and at times belligerent.
He likes to say that he has a chip on his shoulder and that the boos from the New York crowd only made him more focused.
He is a remarkably unlikable golfer, similar in tone to the dour-faced Kevin Kisner and the openly arrogant Patrick Reed, the guy who stated after his first win on tour, “I should be ranked among the top five players in golf.”
Koepka’s record in golf is unusual, having won four of the last eight majors yet only winning one other tour event. His world ranking is now No. 1 and, for better or for worse, he is now golf’s new poster boy. Since this is apparently so, let me describe him for you in the event that you did not attend the 101st PGA Championship in Farmingdale, at Bethpage Black, “The People’s Course.”
He is six feet tall and weighs about 210 pounds, but that is the only thing normal about him.
His muscles bulge, he enjoys chewing tobacco and his swagger is much like a gunslinger. His gaze is cold and penetrating and he responds to media questions as if he is about to fall asleep at any moment.
In psychoanalytic circles we would say he has extremely flat affect. He describes himself as a flat liner.
He has been compared to a variety of athletes. His gaze has been likened to Ray Floyd who had the “eye of the tiger.” His ability to play well under pressure has been compared to baseball’s Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.” And his cockiness has been compared to Babe Ruth who would point to the center field wall before he hit his home runs.
Golf has always been considered a sport favored by the upper classes. Country club life is that privileged place where the upper classes go to relax and raise their kids. Golf, polo, tennis and squash are the sports of choice at clubs around the country but times have a way of changing all that.
Tennis experienced seismic changes way back in the 1970s when the soft-spoken and bespectacled Arthur Ashe was replaced by the likes of Jimmy Connors and John “you cannot be serious!” McEnroe.
Well, lordy lordy, now its golf’s turn to change and accommodate itself to the latest gunslinger in town. Koepka and Dustin Johnson are referred to as the Bash Brothers and both are the personification of the new golfer.
They are the identical twins of swagger, both having a laconic and guarded approach to press interviews. They represent the new antiheroes of the sport and given the state of our politics this attitude ought not come as a big surprise.
We all must change as time goes by. Golf has come upon hard times with country club numbers shrinking by the week. It has always been a staid and slow-moving game that the leisure classes have enjoyed.
But kids and adults alike no longer have the patience or the time to spend the whole day at the links.
Koepka has arrived at the right time and in the right place. Perhaps our new golf hero ought to be acknowledged for who he is. A super jock filled with confidence, arrogance, a slow pulse rate and a mouth full of chewing tobacco.
The PGA may have a hard time marketing around this guy but that remains their problem, not ours.
Bravo to Mr. Koepka and congratulations. I would not be surprised to see that someday in the very near future the tour pros will arrive at tour sites and be supplied with Dodge Ram pickup trucks rather than the Lincolns, Cadillacs and Mercedes that they have grown accustomed to.
All in due time and until then the media, the public’s voice and conscience, is faced with trying to figure out what goes on in the mind of the super jock and how not to become personally offended by what they do.