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Changing the world - through golf

"As he sits on a well-worn, wooden lawn chair on the patio of his Mutiny Bay home, writer Bob Brown searches his memory for a quote from Greek mathematician Archimedes.Wasn't it Archimedes who said something like, 'Give me a fulcrum and a lever and I can move the world?' he asks. Well, our fulcrum and lever is golf.Brown, and his friend Malcolm Ferrier of Langley, have formed a non-profit organization called Keepers of the Game and set ambitious goals for themselves and the game of golf. They want to see good character traits, such as honesty, honor and courtesy, become the hallmark of not only golf, but of sports in general - and in so doing, bring about a change in the way people around the world behave and treat each other in everyday life.Maybe we can turn this world around, says Brown with a soft, understated confidence that belies the enormity of the concept. Through golf? From Whidbey Island? Really?Within the next few months, a new book by Brown, entitled The Way of Golf, will hit the market. In it, Brown questions where the game of golf is headed. With all the pressures of commercialization and a loss of tradition and values, Brown wonders whether the game we love will last another 50 years.Brown and Ferrier believe golf may be a last bastion of good manners and sportsmanship among sporting activities. And they want to work for its preservation and expansion.Cheating is honored in many sports, Brown says, pointing out that if a baseball pitcher can get away with throwing a spit ball or a football receiver can cover up the fact that he's holding, they're often admired rather than rebuffed.Cheating has become a tradition in baseball. Basketball coaches are being strangled by players and Bobby Knight is still the coach at Indiana, he says, referring to former Golden State Warrior player Latrell Spreewell, who physically assaulted his coach during a practice and then sued the National Basketball Association when he was disciplined; and college basketball coach Knight, who is well known for his aggressive and often physically violent outbursts at players and officials.Ferrier makes the same point. On the whole, the impact of professional sports ... is quite destructive, he says, pointing to the enthusiasm with which today's players and fans jeer and boo opponents and yell at umpires and referees. Ferrier adds that the media compounds the problem by focusing on, and then replaying, incidents of bad behavior such as team fights, arguments and low blows. TV tends to exhibit the more degrading character aspects of sports, he says.Brown, a psychologist with a background in human behavior, believes several factors are at the root of declining sports etiquette. They include a general breakdown in family values; a lessening of public demand for good behavior; and a feeling that sport, and life itself for that matter, should be more for fun than for personal growth.There doesn't seem to be any motivation for people to sacrifice for the greater good, Brown says. Making the effort isn't necessary. It's easier for a kid to succeed with a video game than to learn and practice a game like golf.Golfers may be unique in the world of sport, Brown says. Several professional golfers have taken themselves out of contention and prize money this year by letting officials know about errors in their scorecards and other things that lead to disqualification. By contrast with other athletes, most professional golfers come across as polite, reserved, modest and undemonstrative. You seldom see showboating, taunting or gallery-clearing brawls on a golf course.Brown says the two main golf organizations, the Professional Golfers' Association and the United States Golfers' Association, are pushing hard to get more people to take up golf, but without also pushing golf's traditions and values. He believes that's dangerous.If more golfers come into the game without the core values, golf will change for the worse, he said.The game of golf is also unique, Ferrier says, in that when you walk onto a course there are no referees and much of your time is spent on your own. As a result, golf provides many opportunities for players to choose between cheating and honesty.Most people think golf is about hitting the ball and getting it into the hole, but we think golf is about building character, he says. Ferrier lists off several attributes such as self-reliance, patience, honesty, playing by the rules and good stewardship, that he and Brown consider to be at the heart of the game.If people practiced these values on the golf course and then brought them into the rest of their lives ... says Ferrier, purposefully holding the end of the sentence. By leaving his thought up in the air, Ferrier pretty much pinpoints where he, Brown and their organization are at the moment: poised on the brink of great things, or potential obscurity.The pair met eight years ago at St. Andrews in Scotland, considered by many to be the birthplace of golf, and later found themselves playing in the same golf tournament at Whidbey's Holmes Harbor Golf Club.Finding they shared much of the same beliefs about golf, they formed Keepers of the Game in December of 1997. Since then they started publishing a quarterly newsletter and have spent a fair amount of time seeking financial backing for further research and implementation of their plans.So far, they admit, its been like having an uphill lie.We get considerable praise for our efforts but little financial contribution, Ferrier says.Brown adds that corporate sponsors have been reluctant to get behind the Keepers of the Game effort because they can't see any money in it. (On the surface) it has the appearance of elitism, of moving back 100 years, says Brown. That's a tough sell to a company that wants to sell more cars. But the duo remain undeterred. I envision a day in 2015 when a player catches the winning touchdown in the Superbowl and then goes to the referee and says, 'I trapped it,' says Brown. After a short pause he adds, Probably won't happen. While he waits to see, Brown has turned some of his attention to writing his first golf mystery novel, called Golf is Murder, due for release this month. It's got murder, mayhem, attractive women ... and some golf instruction, he said.-----------------Keepers of the GameMail: 3583 Overlook Drive, Langley, WA 98260Phone: (360) 221-5263Web site: www.keepersofthegame.orge-mail: keepers@whidbey.com "

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