Children’s fairytales are often instructive. They use simple stories to teach young ones lessons that can be applied to the more complex situations encountered later in adult life.
Watching the accelerating and escalating battle over golf’s top male professionals being ushered in by the two ‘disruptor’ leagues of late, one can’t help but think of the story of the Goose that Laid Golden Eggs.
A simple tale artfully told, the premise of the story will be familiar to most.
A poor but hard-working farmer eeks out a living tending to his chickens and selling eggs. While the rewards are not great there is an integrity between the amount of effort and the financial reward. Not many would begrudge the farmer a better return for his labours but, all in all, his world is basically in balance.
If we think of this in golf terms we might liken it to the professional circuit of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.
This is the genesis of what would one day morph into the PGA Tour as we know it, though it looked very different to today.
Many of the top players of the time only played tournament golf on a part time basis, their main income derived at what was considered their ‘real’ job as a club professional.
Like the farmer with his handful of chickens, there was a broad balance between the effort and the reward.
Back to our fairy tale and things change for our hard-working farmer when he one day comes by a goose which, to his enormous surprise and delight, lays an egg made of gold.
The farmer sells the egg for more money than he would ever have dared imagine and he is happy with his lot.
However, the next day the goose lays another egg made of gold. And the next, and the next and so on.
In fact, the goose continues to lay an egg made of gold every day and bit by bit the farmer is transformed from scratching out a living to being extremely comfortable with his lot.
One doesn’t have to exercise one’s imagination too hard to see the parallels between the laying of the golden egg and the simultaneous arrival of television and Arnold Palmer.
"What was a good thing has been ruined by uncontrolled greed and an unending desire for ‘more’. One wonders if this is where we now are with professional golf?" - Rod Morri.
Later the game was gifted Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and the trend continued into the 80’s and 90’s with the arrival of the great Europeans in Seve, Lyle, Faldo, Woosnam and Langer, ably assisted by our own Greg Norman.
Fans were happy, players (and their agents) were making money thought impossible just 20 years earlier and the golf world was content.
The stars travelled to all corners of the globe to show off their skills and inspired youngsters in parts of the world where golf was previously at best an afterthought.
And then along came Tiger, the biggest golden egg of all, and times were suddenly more than just good, they were off the charts good.
But back to the fairy tale where our farmer has slowly but surely become rich with his daily supply of labour free golden eggs.
As his wealth grows, however, he begins to change. He evolves from a man grateful for his good fortune to one who begins to feel entitled.
Not content with collecting creature comforts unimaginable to him just a short time ago, he now covets the idea of amassing riches beyond his wildest dreams.
And again we see the parallels with golf. With the arrival of Woods the golf business had a glimpse of what was financially possible and entitlement became the order of the day .
While it could be argued Woods himself was underpaid, an awful lot of people in golf – from Tour staff to agents to lesser players – began reaping the benefits of his extraordinary talent.
The goose was churning out golden eggs at an alarming rate and there were plenty in the game keen to cash in.
And so we come to the final chapter in our fairy tale, a gruesome and confronting end. Having decided he can’t wait to get rich at the rate of an egg a day, the farmer makes a fatal decision.
He surmises that the goose’s insides must be made of gold and surely he can access all the precious metal at once if he simply opens up the animal.
And so he kills the goose.
At this point, everybody knows what happens. Even children grasp the concept that there is no lump of gold inside the goose and that the farmer has just destroyed his own income.
What was a good thing has been ruined by uncontrolled greed and an unending desire for ‘more’.
One wonders if this is where we now are with professional golf?
Of course things are more complex than can be captured in a simple fairy tale but the overarching lesson feels relevant.
If you were the goose that laid the golden egg, you might justifiably be feeling a little nervous about now.