- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

FARMINGDALE, N.Y.

Your Humble Correspondent is mixing with the masses at Bethpage Black, trying to find the answer to the question of this 102nd U.S. Open:

What's with all these "Be Nice To Monty" badges, the ones Golf Digest has been distributing to get fans to go easy on Colin Montgomerie?

You, sir, the gentleman with the golf cap.

(Twenty-five thousand guys turn around.)

No, the one with the Monty badge. Could you tell us your name and where you're from?

"Mark Hevesy from Putnam, Connecticut."

Where did you get the badge, Mark?

"At one of the parking lots at Jones Beach. They were handing them out at the shuttle bus stop."

You're a Monty fan, then?

"I'm not rooting for or against him. I'm just rooting for the idea of good sportsmanship. I would do it for anybody. But Monty, I feel he's getting a raw deal. He has his moments when his hearing is too keen, but I don't think he deserves to be treated the way he's been. Unfortunately, this is a bad part of the country for him to be coming to, because New Yorkers are just going to give him [heck]."

"Monty hurts himself sometimes, too," his friend, Rick Skog, pipes up. "We were over by the clubhouse, and a group of autograph seekers were asking him, very politely, to sign, and he just walked right past them."

Here comes another fellow with a Monty badge. Perhaps he can tell us why Monty seems to rub fans the wrong way. Your name, sir?

"Rory Hammersmark of Boise, Idaho."

(To borrow a line from Sean Connery, who would claim to be Rory Hammersmark of Boise, Idaho, who was not?)

Anyway, Rory, what is it about Monty, that how shall I put this? bugs the bejabbers out of people?

"He's loud, he's opinionated and, well, he tends to whine. He also reacts to things the crowd says. And once you start doing that, it's a very hard cycle to break as he's found out. I just hope people will see all these badges around here and think twice before they start screaming at him."

Let's delve a little further into the subject of Monty's unpopularity. Look, there's a woman wearing not one, not two, but three Monty badges. Perhaps she'll have some insights for us.

"Actually," Long Islander Jaimi Hawkins says, "I'm wearing them because my husband thought it would be a good idea. He's a big golfer, and he told me all about Monty."

Her husband, Russell, is a big golfer. He's 6-foot-5, and plays to a respectable 12 handicap.

"I like Monty because he's about my height [actually, Monty only goes 6-1], and he uses Callaway clubs, just like I do," he says. "Everybody's trying to emulate Tiger, but I like the big guys Monty and Ernie Els."

Why do you suppose other folks don't share your affection for him?

"I think it was some of the things he said about Tiger after he first came out."

Such as?

"He complained that everybody was hyping Tiger and forgetting the rest of the players."

There must be more to it than that. Maybe this man can help us. He's wearing a Monty badge, too. He's also wearing a badge that says, "Peter Dunham, USGA Volunteer." (Obviously, one of his jobs is to keep the rabble from getting too roused.)

"Some of the comments Monty has made have been totally unjustified," he says. "Like at the [99] Ryder Cup, when he said American golfers didn't seem as motivated toward winning, that they were more concerned with making a big, fat paycheck. But then I think we overreacted to that [at Brookline and elsewhere]."

We haven't heard enough from the female side. Excuse me, ma'am but I couldn't help noticing your Monty badge. Would you like to see him win this week?

"No, not particularly," Jackie Matula of Salem, Mass., says. "I always want to see an American win and if an American can't, I want to see Ernie Els. I followed Monty in '97 at Winged Foot, though; that was the PGA Championship that Davis Love won over Justin Leonard. It's funny, [Monty] keeps saying he's not going to play in America anymore, but he keeps coming back, doesn't he?"

Time and more importantly, space for only one more interview. Our final victims are Dolly and Russ Williamson of Barefoot Bay, Fla.

And you're wearing a Monty badge, Dolly, because ?

"Because the fans shouldn't sink to his level."

Oooh. I think I like this lady.

The Williamsons won a lottery on the Golf Channel and got tickets to the Open.

"Won!" her husband harrumphs. "We still had to pay for 'em. Cost us plenty. But at least we only paid face value. I could stand outside the gates and get twice, three times the price."

Russ doesn't agree with his wife on the Monty issue at all.

"He's a Scotsman," he says. "The way he acts on a golf course, the things he says it's part of his makeup. They make everything out of granite over there. Everything is solid as a rock. I've been there; I know. Most of the stonemasons who built this country came from Scotland."

Maybe that's how golf fans should look at it. When they're booing Colin Montgomerie, they're not just booing Monty, they're booing the stonemasons who built this country. Goldurnit.

So simmer down and let the poor man play. He can't help it. He's a Scot.


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