If a cicada could talk

Columns - Parting Shots

June 7, 2016

The good people of Cleveland have been abuzz about the reemergence of the famed 17-Year Cicadas over the past few weeks. I was out in yard the other day observing them when I noticed something astonishing. One cicada was holding what appeared to be a tiny golf club and was wearing a teensy little Nike visor. I had discovered an entomological miracle: a golfing 17-Year Cicada who could talk! Here’s the conversation I had with the little bugger:

Me: Hey little fella … what’s your name?

Cicada: I’m Arnold … but everyone calls me Arnie.

Me: What’s up with the golf club?

Arnold: Working on my short game … I haven’t played since 1999 and I’m rusty as hell. What’s been going on in the wide wide world of golf since the last time I was around?

Me: Well, remember how golf was a big hot hairy thing back 17 years ago and rich guys were building courses as fast as they could?

Arnold: Yeah, there must be like 30,000 courses I could play now, right?

Me: Not so much. Turns out we were a wee bit optimistic about how many people would be playing golf here in 2016. We’ve actually closed about a thousand courses since then and we’re down to 15,000ish.

Arnold: Dang! Can I still get a tee-time someplace? Who should I call?

Me: That will not be a problem. Plenty of openings at the remaining 11,000+ public facilities in the USA. And there’s this thing called GolfNow that lets you book a tee time right from your computer about anywhere for peanuts. It’s convenient but it’s actually devalued the price of a round of golf at lots of places and maybe caused more problems than it’s solved.

Arnold: Why would courses discount their prices so much?

Me: Because they get desperate to fill tee sheets since there are too many courses and the number of golfers stopped growing.

Arnold: Jeez! I’m a bug and even I know that discounting is a death-spiral in the long run.

Me: Amen, my itsy-bitsy brother.

Arnold: I’ll bet golf course maintenance is pretty simple now what with all the genetically modified grasses the Scotts Company was about to launch back in 1999. Just spray that Roundup and everything’s perfect, huh?

Me: Nope. Never happened. Too much uproar about GMOs and not enough money to be made. Scotts actually bailed out of the golf business completely.

Arnold: I’m surprised one of the other 21 basic chemical manufacturers hasn’t picked up on the idea.

Me: Ah, there’s been a little bit of consolidation and now we’re down to four or five big chemical companies, depending on how you count.

Arnold: Holy smokes! Has anything good happened in the past 17 years?

Me: Well, we were forced by the downturn in golf and the big recession back in ’08 to get smarter. Courses had to start acting more like regular businesses and that’s been positive. We’ve also gotten more careful about water and chemical use. Most regulators now view golf as a pretty responsible industry, thanks to hard work by a bunch of terrific superintendents. It’s helped to grow some recognition and respect for supers.

Arnold: That’s good to hear. Those dudes deserve some attention. I always thought it was a shame the way they were stuck down in the maintenance barn with no way to tell golfers about what they do and how important it is.

Me: Well, some computer geeks created “social media,” which allows anyone to post stories and pictures about what they do. A lot of superintendents use one called Twitter to communicate with their members now.

Arnold: So what else is going on in Cleveland this summer?

Me: We’re hosting the Republican National Convention in July.

Arnold: Who’s the nominee?

Me: Donald Trump.

Arnold: Hah! Right. How are the Browns doing? The team had just come back last time I was around.

Me: They’ve had 25 starting quarterbacks since 1999.

Arnold: That’s about as likely as Donald Trump being the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

Me: You said it.

Arnold: So Tiger must have won about 30 majors by now right?

Me: Yeah, about Tiger…

Pat Jones is editorial director and publisher of Golf Course Industry. He can be reached at pjones@gie.net or 216-393-0253.