Inevitably, in any conversation I've had with somebody outside of the sport, I field a similar question: Are golfers athletes?
While I have always answered yes, it wasn’t until Tiger Woods’ dominance in 2000 and subsequent rise of a younger, fitter generation that my answer gained acceptance from the doubters. Now, Rory McIlroy is posting videos of box jumps and heavy squats, Dustin Johnson is dunking basketballs in commercials, and I can identify some portion of the workout routines of at least nine golfers currently ranked in the
top 10. Golfers are athletes.
The revelation that 42-year-old Jason Bohn survived a massive, “walking” heart attack during the second round of The Honda Classic last week sent shockwaves throughout the sport for a number of reasons.
Bohn is as genuine and nice of a player as anybody on the PGA Tour. No hyperbole here. He’s a family man, who will give you a straight answer and cherishes every moment he gets to play the sport he loves. He’s a grinder, whose career was bankrolled early by a million-dollar hole-in-one, allowing him to work his way to the top of his craft. In an era of wunderkinds and junior phenoms, Bohn is the throwback.
“I've been a player all my life that plays with my heart,” Bohn said in 2005, fresh off his first Tour win after over a decade on the mini tours. “I just go out there and grind as hard as I can.”
That grind can take its toll, which is why I was so terrified for Bohn when the news first came out but then became hopeful that some professional golfers might learn from his brush with death. On Monday, during an interview with SiriusXM and Golf Channel host Matt Adams, Bohn discussed the “one hell of a mulligan” he got and the “lifestyle change” he'll have to make post-heart attack.
While Bohn didn't expound on the changes he'll need to make, it could include quitting smoking, something he's done on the course in the past.
Stress management is as much a part of the game of golf as the swing and the equipment. While some cope with the help of a sports psychologist, many prefer more organic ways, which is where the naysayers come in.
Would you see an NFL star lighting up on the sideline? Baseball players have long dipped tobacco (a favorite of many professional golfers, too), yet Major League Baseball tried to ban it just two years ago. NBA superstars aren’t guzzling diet soda during timeouts, but John Daly famously binged on it to get through some tough days on the course.
This isn’t an indictment on any player or choice. In fact, the game is healthier now than ever before, and many of those vices are well hidden from the public lens in an image-conscious society. However, the emotional fallout from Bohn’s revelation, I hope, is a wakeup call for many to consider healthier living. With the money and skill increasing on Tour, the grind is only getting tougher. The putts are only getting more nerve-wracking. The sport will only get more stressful.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will aid golfers in overcoming those stressors easier. I believe all golfers, including Jason Bohn, are tremendous athletes in their own ways. I just don’t want to see the stress of the game bring us the most tragic ending during a round anytime soon.