Over the Ball: Why does golf continue to botch 'amateur'?
Golf Culture

Over the Ball: Why does golf continue to botch ‘amateur’?

Golf has its own language, I understand.

We have an obsession with birds -- even mythical double birds instead of the sensible albatross. We yell directions at our earless balls. The one-worded sonofabitch can be a compliment.

But so much of golf insists on a heteronym that is frustrating and embarrassing and wrong.

When you watch major championships on TV and a non-professional has qualified for the field, and you see that (a) next to their name, you know they're an...

  1. Am-a-chure, OR
  2. Am-a-teurrrrr

You pick Option 1, and it's not even close, as this totally scientific Twitter poll indicates:

Option 1 is what we learned in school. It's how we speak. It's colloquial. It's Am-a-chure Hour. So why do several golf announcers and TV talking heads insist on using the alternate pronunciation? It makes them sound so...French...so hoity-toity, like they're taking time out of their busy day swimming in Duck McScrooge's vault of gold coins to entertain the plebians with their superior golf talent. You know, like they used to do at the turn of the 20th century until some patriots realized getting paid to play an expensive game is a con only rivaled by the moon landing.

What finally sent me over the edge is the hero worship of Bryson DeChambeau, the 2015 U.S. Am-a-teurr and NC-eh-eh men's individual champion. People are still figuring out if they should say his last name like it's one word or three. And, at the Masters, his introduction to the broader golf world had so many sports fans dusting off their French I to talk about the guy. Add in the whole golf scientist-or-is-it-artist thing, and, at times, the Masters broadcast sounded like a Parisian walk through the Louvre to see the latest Monet to the nearby creamery to learn of Louis Pasteur. Heh: Amateur. Pasteur. Hopefully he'll be successful enough to merit going by his first name.

It just bothers me to no end that we have to say a word wrong to seemingly elevate these guys and gals.

What's that?

Alright, so we're almost all wrong. It's am-a-terr, at least according to Merriam-Webster's preferred online pronunciation. For what it's worth, five valid pronunciations are listed, and they're all variations of our two labored choices. But, once again, we've learned that golf is getting something wrong we were all convinced is so right. What does that say about a women's Masters at Augusta National, changing the Tour Championship format or golf's potential PED problem? I don't know, and that's a bridge too far.

What I do know? I don't care if you butcher amateur, but if you use "double eagle" instead of "albatross," you can't be in my foursome.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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