Golf and Alcohol

golf and drinkingA friend recently checked into a substance abuse rehab center for a drinking problem.  He’s not happy about getting involved in a twelve-step program.   He considers AA a cult and most of its members losers.  However, he now suffers from advancing cirrhosis. Continued drinking means death, his doctor warned.

My friend is an avid golfer, and his best friends are golfers. Alcohol is part of their culture and he considers their drinking adventures entertaining and “cool.” Life without alcohol seems grim and lackluster to him.  Only death would be worse.  And that, of course, is the choice he’s faced with.

PGA Champion, John Daley

Drinking has long been woven into the mystique of golf.  Many famous golfers became alcoholics during their careers.  PGA golfer John Daly is one.  He has been disciplined repeatedly for drunken behavior. Over the years, the PGA Tour ordered him into alcohol rehab at least seven times.   In an interview (while he was on the wagon), Daly said, “Everywhere you turn on tour, there’s alcohol. It’s the country-club scene with drinking before, during and after rounds.”

Harry Vardon

Harry Vardon, Early Golf Superstar

The tradition of drinking is often stoutly defended by golf devotees. In 1915, Harry Vardon—one of golf’s first international superstars—was asked by a British temperance worker to join the movement against alcohol. His reply was, “Moderation is essential in all things, madam,” he said, “but never in my life have I failed to beat a teetotaler.”

Walter Hagen, AA member

Famous golfers who were alcoholics include George Travers, Tommy Armour, Fred Herreshoff, Noah Begay, and Walter Hagen.  Hagen was so admired by Bill Wilson, a founder of AA, that his name can be found on the pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous..

Alcoholism is common among other celebrity athletes. Jim Thorpe, the legendary track star (who also played football and baseball), was an alcoholic. So were baseball pitchers Rube Waddell, Bugs Raymond, and Grover Cleveland Alexander, plus catcher Rollie Hemsley.

Famous people whose lives were impaired by alcoholism until they gave up drinking include:

King Edward VIII of England
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., movie actor
Stephen Crane, novelist
Eugene V. Debs, labor leader
Isadora Duncan, dancer
Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet
Sherwood Anderson, novelist
Theodore Dreiser, novelist
Muhammad Ali, boxer
Duke of York, British royal family
Isaac Asimov, scientist/author
David Bowie, rock star
Warren Buffett, billionaire investor
Jim Carrey, actor
Eric Clapton, musician
John Coltrane, musician
Tom Cruise, actor
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th U.S. President
Stonewall Jackson, Confederate General
Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Computers
Elton John, musician/songwriter
Stephen King, author
Bruce Lee, martial arts performer Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister
James Russell Lowell, poet/diplomat
Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France
Prince, celebrity musician
John D. Rockefeller, industrialist/philanthropist
Fred Rogers, star of children’s TV show

Mitt Romney, former Massachuetts Governor
George Bernard Shaw,  playwright
Ringo Starr, Beatles drummer
Strom Thurmond, U.S. SenatorPierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada
Mae West, film star
Malcolm X, Black activist

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