Football has no Luck — is golf ready to call an audible?

Rory McIlroy was born on May 4, 1989.

Andrew Luck was born on Sept. 12, 1989.

McIlroy just won the FedExCup, worth $15 million. His golf career is still ascending.

Luck just announced his retirement from football and left millions of dollars on the table after dealing with a long and frustrating string of injuries, some serious. The star quarterback’s career is over even though he’s four months younger than McIlroy.

You’ve got to wonder: How many parents – how many junior athletes, for that matter – witnessed those two events last weekend and are questioning whether they want football to be in their future?

And it’s not as if their concerns about football are surprising, if another news item this week is any indication. The National Federation of State High School Associations reported that the number of players in 11-man football dropped for the fifth straight year, to the lowest level since 1999.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Football isn’t going to be king forever. You can see it coming from a mile away. And it starts with the drop in high school participation.

The injuries are scaring people. Every time a big-name player such as Luck calls it quits at a relatively young age, that translates to thousands of parents saying, “No way my kid is going to wind up like that.”

And I’ll say this again, too: Golf needs to be in position to attract those good athletes who still want to play sports.

I mentioned this to a friend yesterday, and he had the standard response: “But golf costs too much.”

OK, fair enough. Golf equipment isn’t cheap, and you don’t get on a golf course for free.

Well, why don’t we do something about that? Surely there’s a way for golf courses, equipment manufacturers and even club-fitters to pool their resources and get more clubs in the hands of youngsters.

There has to be a way to corral some old clubs and put them to good use. And if golf courses allow youngsters to play for free in the late afternoon a couple days a week, it’s not as if the courses are jammed at that hour. At the very least, put some clubs on the driving range and let them swing away. Consider it an investment.

But don’t stop there.

Have some snacks out there on the range. Station a teaching pro behind them. And music – got to have music. Make it fun.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing that participation in our great game is dwindling. I’m even more weary of hearing that courses can’t do anything about it.

Oh yes they can. We all can.

I feel so fortunate that I started playing when I was 8. Every round, even on the par-3 course, was heavenly. And then when I got into high school, there was nothing more special than getting out of sixth period and heading off to the golf course on a beautiful spring day.

How many more golfers would there be today if more kids played at a young age? What if they grew up with the game instead of making it something they pick up in their 20s or 30s, after they’re tired of playing other sports? Wouldn’t it be better if golf was their first look?

I know a lot of people who are openly rooting for the demise of football. I can’t say I’m as interested in watching it anymore.

It’s in full decline among kids, and someday that will catch up to the sport at the college and pro level. You can see it coming from a mile away. I hope golf’s readiness to step into the void is just as evident.

Leave a Reply