Bethpage’s baying, boorish galleries should have no place in golf

The heckling of Brooks Koepka by the crowd at the US PGA was unacceptable but is likely to be even worse for Europes players when the Ryder Cup comes to the course in 2024

” The fans here have been tremendous .” Suzy Whaley did not intend to raise eyebrows with a speech, typically filled with platitudes, following the conclusion of the US PGA Championship. Instead, given events of Sunday afternoon, the PGA of America president’s lauding of New York galleries was horribly misplaced. It was laughable, in fact.

Just because Brooks Koepka gleaned inspiration from fans chanting in support of Dustin Johnson and, even worse, cheering his own miscued irons the Bethpage scenario should not be shrugged off. Those spectators were not so much anti-Koepka/ pro-Johnson as keen to witness a great sporting turnaround- as nearly transpired- but the scene was ugly.

Praise is due to Harold Varner III. Fresh from a disastrous 81 in his fourth round, when playing in Koepka’s company, he spoke out against gallery behaviour.” I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Creeks to choke ,” Varner said.” That’s not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that. I have a few choice terms for that .”

What on earth this venue may be reduced to when the US take on Europe in the 2024 Ryder Cup is already in focus. Hazeltine, three years ago, find a more frenzied Ryder Cup backdrop than is useful for anyone. If Bethpage turns into a febrile, tribal bear cavity for an individual event, then heaven knows what will occur as the golfing golden boys of the United State combination. Which, in itself, is farcical; the players on either side of the Ryder Cup have actually never had more in common or been closer.” We actually talked about this a lot during the week ,” said Koepka.” Good luck to Europe with the fans .”

Brooks Koepka was given plenty of stick during the final round but managed to retain his title. Photograph: Jamie Squire/ Getty Images

Elsewhere anxieties are rising. Phil Kenyon, putting coach to several of Europe’s top golfers, has said a Bethpage Ryder Cup could be” a rather ugly affair “. Paul Casey determined for “intimidating” when contemplating 2024.” I guess Europe will need to have the 12 most thick-skinned players ,” said Shane Lowry.” It will be brutal. I would leave the spouses inside in that one .” Lowry, it should be noted, is no shrinking violet.

The Koepka US PGA affair was not an isolated one. Jordan Spieth was subjected to cat-calling during his Saturday round. Even during practise days the loud, occasionally obnoxious, routinely unfunny, screams bellow from behind the ropes. Publicly challengers smile, privately they roll their eyes.” It’s as if they have to play up to this New York sporting stereotype ,” said a member of the world’s top 10 on Tuesday. The racket is not the domain of solely adults, either. That kids shout and bellow in pursuit of autographs or memorabilia from golfers long since became unedifying rather than endearing.

This is not a problem specific to Bethpage, even if the level of unpleasantness felt as if it was ramped up several notches here. The general conduct of the American golf attendee- noise level increasing with every can of lager- has been in obvious, recent deterioration. That players generally keep their counsel is understandable; why badmouth the PGA Tour golden goose which defines them up financially for life?

One should not need to be a member of any puritanical society- take it from one who knows- to seek levels of respect from golf crowds. This is not to say all golf spectators should tip their caps and applaud quietly. There is, however, a major leap between tranquillity and what transpired at Bethpage.

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Celebrating an individual’s demise- not least when the said individual has reached the peak of his athletic, in sharp contrast to the fiftysomething in a NFL shirt- should not be tolerated. One of the game’s great positives is the instilling of manners into those who participate in it. In these days where people can bawl from behind keyboards, golf should be a force for good. Instead, we have players at the summit of the game having to shut out boorish noise. Although not unique to the United Nation- posh lads’ days out at the Open Championship are not particularly appealing- the problem is decidedly more acute on the American side of the Atlantic.

Pete Willett handed his brother, Danny, a horribly timed curveball when lacerating American golf fans before Hazeltine. But on reflection, maybe the genesis of Willett’s sentiment-” baying mob of imbeciles” and all- was not that far wide of the mark. Tremendous? Whaley needs a new speechwriter.

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