Nations: Witty galleries shine for PGA

By Jeff Nations

I suppose I need a lesson in proper golf etiquette.

I briefly tuned in to this weekend’s PGA Championship — admittedly, not a fan of the televised version of the sport — in order to better surmise the correct moment for howling that priceless “Get in the hole” exclamation, should I ever find myself in the gallery for the first tee at, say, Spyglass or Augusta National.

Is it correct to shout well before the tee shots, in order to get first claim to that exhortation?

I’m fairly certain, even as a non-golfer, that shouting during a back swing is a no-no, but how about after?

So let’s say, right as the club head connects with the ball on a par 5, 600-some odd yard hole? Maybe a two-foot putt, if I could get it off, like, really fast? Is after better? For maximum hilarity, I mean?

I ask, because frankly I never have gotten the humor to begin with, so please, someone — let me in on the joke. I’ve recently learned more of these witty exclamations, in reading through an ESPN.com story relating to golfers Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter taking to Twitter — where else? — on Sunday night to lambaste what they seemingly consider some rather uncouth characters lurking amongst the legions of fans craning to see a glimpse of the action unfolding at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

In Westwood’s case, his Twitter barrage dealt more with counter-attacking a few of those ever-present Internet “trolls” always eager to spark a reaction with nasty, often inane comments. They got one from Westwood — 50-some tweets worth, it seems.

Poulter came in later, and that’s where I learned a bit more about what I’m supposed to be bellowing — apparently — at PGA events across the country and hopefully, the world. Poulter clued me into “mashed potatoes” (no idea) and the kind commenters on the ESPN site offered up “baba booey” (again, no clue) for me to contemplate.

I realize that the days of silent, fedora-topped galleries grimly tromping from green to green in the requisite sports coat, trousers and tie to politely clap for birdies and eagles gone the way of the dodo bird. We’re not the strait-laced, conforming society of our great-grandparents … but then again, the garish golf shirt/Bermuda shorts look is practically a uniform in its own right in the modern-day gallery, so who’s to say?

We can only assume that, even back in the halcyon days of Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and even Walter Hagen, catcalls on the course were probably not unheard of — rare, maybe, but there’s always a few.

The current gallery idiot, though, has a camera awareness never before rivaled by their predecessors in rudeness. These oaths must be exquisitely timed now — it’s not just the hapless golfers and the closely packed gallery to entertain with their witticisms now. There are potentially millions of viewers out there ready and eager to receive the full dose of inebriated humor.

Personally, I would feel less than fulfilled if I didn’t hear “Get in the hole” immediately following Tiger Woods’ every … single … swing … ever … in … history. Luckily for all of us, I don’t believe that has ever occurred anywhere, on any continent on which the ever-popular Tiger has teed off. Americans might be the most relentless, but international fans have caught on from my sporadic observations.

It’s funny, right? It must be funny. Like, really funny. So funny that someone, often more than one, is compelled to fill that void of noise immediately following the club head striking the ball — but before the crowd can react to where the shot might actually be headed — with one of those choice phrases. And really, what golfer can’t appreciate a well-timed “You da man” (or woman, for that matter) just before their tee shot slices wide of the fairway and into an inviting stand of trees, a bramble of weeds, or perhaps into the very gallery lining the course? It’s affirming, is what it is.

I am supremely confident that if I do indeed find myself gazing toward the 18th tee at the U.S. Open awaiting the first of that hallowed final group to unleash their final shots in a quest for golfing immortality, it won’t be necessary to overcome my own aversion to public speaking and pipe up with a priceless “Get in the hole” for the enjoyment of all.

Someone’s got that one covered, every single time.

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>