19th Hole

Louie Unga
Operations Manager
Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass
Chandler, AZ

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Is Golf Headed for a PED Train Wreck?

The weekend before Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities last month, an interviewer asked Chris Davis, the Baltimore Orioles first baseman and the Major League leader in home runs, if he considered Roger Maris’ 61 homers as the single season record. Davis responded that he did, despite the fact that Maris’ 1961 season is currently seventh on the official list. The three players that occupy the six spots ahead of Maris are all suspected of using performance enhancing drugs during their record-breaking seasons.  Davis is not alone in his bifurcation of MLB’s record book. It seems that many baseball fans, purists and casual fans alike, have split baseball’s most hallowed records with a special section designated for those players who have admitted to, or been rumored to have cheated.

Is professional golf headed toward a similar fate? Under the PGA Tour’s current drug testing policy, very few players are subjected to testing away from a tournament site. The Tour currently only analyzes urine samples, forgoing the blood testing that could reveal the kind of sordid details that may be lurking just below the surface. The main argument against tightening up the testing policy in golf is the question of whether or not stricter testing would even stop a determined athlete from finding a way around it. The recent headlines from the worlds of baseball, track & field, cycling and MMA suggest that there is a benefit from taking a firm stance.

The PGA & European Tour’s current testing systems are apathetic, half-hearted and barely satisfy the minimum requirements set forth by the World Anti-Doping Agency. If they are continued we may one day soon see a baseball-like assault on golf’s most time honored records; an assault that may lead to a similar, unpleasant split in public perception of who the real record holders are. Maybe a crackdown and cleanup of the game is not as necessary as it has been in other sports. One thing is for certain, in three years when golfers are subjected to Olympic drug testing, the relatively spotless game of golf could dominate sports headlines in the worst way possible.