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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Golf, Oui -- Jihadis, Non

I generally maintain an impermeable boundary between what I write here and the larger world of war and politics and global epidemics.  To be sure, I'm aware of and sensitive to the depths of human misery and suffering forged in those crucibles, but this is a place where I write about the mysteries surrounding the game of golf and, in a compact with my readers, this is a place apart from the human tragedies that surround and bombard us to which you, my readers, can retreat for a brief respite.

Tonight I'm breaking that compact.  To my sorrow, France -- that nation that provided the intellectual synergy and enlightenment that inspired the American Revolution, the culture that set the 20th century standard for sophistication and inclusion, that place where fine food is a taken-for-granted basic human right, where street vendors ply their trade with a panache that escapes ordinary folk elsewhere, the nation that has suffered and resisted and survived occupation, a place I have visited again and again, and a place that I love despite the haughty scorn I endure when I attempt to communicate in French (I long ago gave up and turned to the more universal language of American Express) -- has joined the ranks of jihadi's victims.

Suzann Pettersen, The 2013 Evian Championship
Even as I've followed the ongoing manhunt through the Paris suburbs and beyond, however, other images have intruded:

Suzann Pettersen wrapped in Norway's flag as she claimed her victory at Evian -- that most French of all golf courses and that most French of all sports competitions -- in 2013;

Victor DuBuisson, playing with extraordinarily elegant style at the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Graeme McDowell (left) & Victor Dubuisson (right),
The 2014 Ryder Cup

What must Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Alexander Levy and Gwadlys Nocera and Michael Lorenzo-Vera and Karine Icher be feeling at this moment?  How will security arrangements for the 2015 Evian Championship be impacted by this senseless violence?

Mary Queen of Scots and her consort, Francis, Dauphin of France, would likely be amused by such concerns.  They played golf in the midst of war, as a respite from violence, and so should we.

France offers an array of golf opportunities for all of us who love to tee it up, from the breathtaking terrain in the Alps and Provence to links in Brittany along the wind-swept Atlantic coast that could rival those in Scotland.  The game of golf has enjoyed a consistent and steady presence in France since Mary and Francis played the game assisted by French military cadets (whose role in our game would be immortalized by the diminutive caddie) that no jihadi should be allowed to diminish.

That's a job for the Fédération Française de Golf.   Organized in 1912 to promote the game of golf in France, the FFG will take the lead in fielding a French golf team to the 2016 Rio Olympics and hosting the 2018 Ryder Cup, but one of the FFG's long-term goals is to make the game affordable and accessible at the recreational level. 

One can only speculate on what the French version of a hot dog at the turn might be or the gastronomic delights that await golfers at the 19th hole in the FFG's vision.  I, however, would certainly enjoy discovering those pleasures!

The tragedy that's focused in Paris and has shrouded all of France for the last 24 hours will be compounded if we allow its shadow to extend into the future and to circumscribe our lives.  Tonight Parisians are again in the streets, protesting the obscene violation of their world.  I join in the protest of that violation and its senseless violence.  It cannot be permitted to redirect the future or to redefine fundamentally positive human experiences.

Vivé la France and vivé le golf!