If you were allowed to play one round with a professional of your choice, who would it be?
For me, it would be the Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez. He comes across as having such a wonderful zest for life that I would just love to sample some of whatever it is he is on.
Great zest for life – Miguel Ángel Jiménez.
For the rest of us amateurs a common conversation starter could be, “So and so, sure he is a great ball-striker, but he comes across as an absolute p—k.” Ok, so who are the good guys? Who are the players that have genuine niceness ingrained within?
Mid-way through last year, Golf Digest conducted an extensive poll to answer this very question. Their survey included tournament directors, locker-room attendants, players, caddies, tournament volunteers and media. Respondents were asked to score players they know personally on a scale of 1 (awful) to 10 (great).
While professional golfers tend to come across as polite, cooperative and media-friendly, especially when compared to certain other professional athletes, there are those, including some major champions, who are indeed petty, arrogant and guilty of extreme self-absorption.
But as the survey revealed, the good guys don’t operate that way. These are the guys who sign autographs for hours on end, tip generously, thank volunteers for being there and read their pro-am partner’s putts. “These good guys,” said one respondent (a caddie), “remember where they have come from. It’s difficult in top-level sport. People throw money and fame at you in such a way that it can be hard to remember the way it used to be. But not for the good guys – they never forget their roots and how hard it was.”
When developing the survey, Golf Digest sought advice from many sources including caddies, tour officials, volunteers, equipment reps and sponsors. Their collective responses listed the following criteria:
1. Charitable—not just signing checks, but involved.
2. Good to the “little people” such as volunteers, locker-room attendants, drivers.
4. Nice when no one’s looking.
5. Role models/good ambassadors for the sport.
6. Media-friendly, or at least professionally tolerant.
7. Able to keep their entourages friendly.
The benchmark was set years ago by Arnold Palmer, whose general demeanour with fans and media is the stuff of legend. Not many have the natural charm of a Palmer, but the good guys find a way.
The most touching stories revealed were ones that began not with a request from a fan or a sponsor, but when it was the player’s idea and no one else knew. A year after the Wells Fargo Championship asked J.J. Henry to participate in its “read-to” program for kids, Henry called Kendall Alley of Wells Fargo before the tournament and asked, “Hey, are you going to use me on that again this year? I hope so.” Alley says Henry’s done it for four years now. “He’s also amazing in kids’ clinics.” At Henry’s local tournament in Fort Worth, the Colonial, his Henry House Foundation hosts a Skybox for Kids on the 10th hole: arts, crafts, video games and free lunch for everyone. After each round, says former tournament director Peter Ripa, “J.J. would come in and hang with the kids.”
Good Guys seem to inspire one another. Every year the tour recognizes professionalism and commitment to charity with its Payne Stewart Award. Last year, as the award was presented to our No. 1 Good Guy, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson showed up, too, to show his support, telling one of our co-workers, “Someday I hope to win this award.”
With Johnson, Stricker and the rest of the list, commitment to charity is an important part of why they garner such respect. Most every top tour player can afford to be charitable. But their involvement goes far beyond a tax write-off. From the K.J. Choi Foundation’s aid to young Koreans struggling financially to Matt Kuchar’s Twin Lakes camp serving kids with serious illnesses, the Good Guys make it personal.
RANK PLAYER SCORE
- Steve Stricker 9.25
- Brandt Snedeker 8.44
- Rickie Fowler 8.32
- Matt Kuchar 8.32
- Graeme McDowell 8.26
- Joe Durrant 8.25
- Adam Scott 8. 20
- Bo Van Pelt 8.19
- Rory McIlroy 8.16
- Zach Johnson 8.14
- Bill Haas 8.11
- Geoff Ogilvy 8.09
- KJ Choi 8.02
- Jason Gore 8.02
- Carl Pettersson 8.00
- Padraig Harrington 7.98
- Justin Rose 7.98
- Stewart Cink 7.98
- Scott Langley 7.84
- Phil Mickelson 7.75
- Webb Simpson 7.75
- Ben Crane 7.74
- Mike Weir 7.73
- Louis Oosthuizen 7.67
- Davis Love III 7.62
- Aaron Baddeley 7.61
- JJ Henry 7.60
- Kenny Perry 7.57
- Lee Westwood 7.57
- Paul Goydos 7.54
Here’s to the good guys of golf.