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Steph Currys vanity project is a kick in the teeth to journeymen golf pros | Ewasn Murray

Basketball stars appearance in the Ellie Mae Classic is borderline offensive to golfers battling in the tough world below the main tours

Imagine the scenario. Golden State Warriors are locked in a fierce play-off battle when Jordan Spieth inspired by his brothers basketball success and a capable player in his own right decides he wants to feature in match five. Spieths overtures are accepted, thereby handing the golfer a key spot in another sports top domain.

Ludicrous, right? It certainly should be but while the circumstances are not identical there is cause to wonder about the legitimacy of the web.com Tours dispensation as given to Steph Curry. The Ellie Mae Classic in California will feature Curry a basketball superstar and Under Armour icon who plays off two after the Warriors player was handed a sponsors invitation. If it sounds like a vanity project and looks like a vanity project, it tends to be a vanity project.

Curry expressed his delight at this chance. Under Armour, the clothing company intrinsically linked to golf via Spieth, is similarly cock-a-hoop. The positive reaction which greeted the move was based on Currys ability to raise the profile of the web.com Tour, which is essentially an entry-level division for the much more lucrative PGA Tour.

Im honoured to have the opportunity to play with the pros, Curry said. Not only to be able to compete against some of the best golfers in the world but to also help bring light to the tournaments charitable footprint of giving back to the Warriors Community Foundation.

The charitable aspect of this arrangement is worthy of praise but it ends there. One also presumes Curry has plenty of means by which he can assist said foundation.

Here is the rub: if golf needs athletes from elsewhere to boost its standing, if there is not enough within the game itself to promote at the level a basketball player can, there really is a problem. Golf should be accentuating its own blue-chip properties, not shipping them in from elsewhere. It also remains curious that sports people commonly regard golf as some kind of fallback career option, as if switching into this discipline alongside people who play for a living will be automatically simple.

These individuals tend to get a rude awakening. Johan van der Wath, a former South Africa cricketer, progressed to his home open this year and easily missed the cut. Ive had great times in my cricket career but at this stage golf is No1, he said. I always say cricket was my job and golf is my passion. Most cricketers would normally play a bit of golf socially but Im passionate about it.

Which is all well and good but the concept of waltzing between sports is at best a strange one. Could Andy Murray revive his passion for football and start training with Manchester United?

Steph
Steph Curry, who recently won his second NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors, is a two-handicap golfer. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Tony Romo, the former NFL player, tried and failed to qualify for the recent USOpen. Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Jerry Rice, Ivan Lendl and Andriy Shevchenko have received invitations to play professional golf and rapidly discovered scoring 68 in the company of friends is not the same as teeing it up in competition format. Being blunt, the position as afforded to these stars is borderline offensive to those trying to make their way in what is a ferociously tough world just below the main tours.

The exception was Babe Didrikson Zaharias, an American athlete who proceeded to swat away all before her in golf. Her 41 wins on the LPGA Tour suggests a level of golfing brilliance that would have come to the fore regardless of an earlier time in track and field. Currys handicap, although very good, hardly sets him apart even from leading amateurs.

There is no suggestion Curry has a career swap in mind. The dynamics of a sponsors invitation also means he is not removing any other players place in the field. Nonetheless, surely the more valid move would be giving a chance to an emerging perhaps struggling player rather than a 29-year-old multimillionaire who can snap his fingers and have sponsors fawning. In many respects this is the opposite of the work model web.com Tour should represent. Shouldnt it be a platform for development? So many great players could use that chance, said the world No489, Lee McCoy. Sad.

It is difficult to see what can be gained. If Curry scores high numbers, he will inevitably endure embarrassment amid criticism of why he was there in the first place. Should the opposite transpire, the sense will be that golf is an easy environment. Obviously I want to play well and see how I handle tournament golf, Curry said. No expectations except keep the ball out of the gallery and not go Happy Gilmore.

This is not to say golf should shun celebrity. Pro-am events provide a regular backdrop to tournaments, thereby affording people from across the sporting spectrum to see golfers at work. Curry said after a round in the company of Justin Thomas and others in 2015: These guys are ridiculous. Their misses are good shots for me. Its just a different type of expectation. You see their ball flight and its something youre not used to.

Until golfers can start picking and choosing their appearances in other sports, scenarios like Currys are better avoided.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/29/steph-curry-basketball-golf-ellie-mae-classic

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