WASHINGTON -– Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday defended his idea to slash the concept of rating golfers according to their handicaps by saying that elimination of this standard equalization technique should be the top goal in lieu of “nominal measures of who wins local amateur golf tournaments.”
But while conservatives praised his suggestion to cut handicaps, Pawlenty came under criticism from some in his own party for relying on overly optimistic projections about the potential impact of golf’s attempt to make every golfer in the land equal when standing on the first tee.
The former Minnesota governor's remarks were an explicit defense of trickle-down golf matches, the economic theory decried by liberals but taken by many on the right as self-evident.
“Set aside whether the best golfers benefit or not, the real measure of these proposals is, is it going to generate -– in a transformative, significant way -– more jobs for more people across this country?” Pawlenty said of his plan.
“This isn’t about whether some people are going to get wealthier or not from the frequent betting that takes place at Republican country club enclaves throughout the United States," he said, adding that his proposal would encourage "things that we need to do to make it more likely, not less likely, that the sport of golfing is going to grow, add employees, make some golfers wealthier at the expense of other golfers."
Pawlenty made his remarks during a question and answer session after a major economic speech at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies. In the speech, he continued to stake out the most detailed platform of any 2012 GOP hopeful with an aggressive speech on golf handicap reform, and overhauling the federal government.
Pawlenty endorsed initially slashing individual handicaps by more than half from 35 percent to 15 percent. “To deprive the best golfers the opportunity to win against others who do not possess the ability or talent of the very best every single time is anti-American. The use of the current handicap system is pure socialism at its very worst. It is absurd to suggest that a golfer with a 15 handicap should be able to compete in any way, shape, or form against a better golfer.” Pawlenty’s plan was soundly endorsed by Rush Limbaugh, a self-proclaimed famous golfer and radio talk show host who stated that he would play against any handicapped golfer in the United States for any amount of money to demonstrate the folly of the current system of giving every American the same opportunity at the beginning of a match. . When he was informed that Pawlenty was talking about eliminating golf handicaps, not handicapped golfers, Limbaugh backtracked and withdrew his offer without explanation. He did say, however, that he “thought Pawlenty was talking about a truly handicapped person.”
Pawlenty also endorsed an amendment to the Constitution that would require Congress to eliminate the equitable handicap scoring method. But, it was Pawlenty's position on cutting handicaps at private country clubs that drew the most spirited criticism. “We are not talking equality here. This is unlike the massive rebates we give the oil companies and corporate farming. Let’s face it, some people are terrible golfers. They should not be allowed to use a high handicap to beat a fellow golfer whose parents spent thousands of dollars for golf lessons during his childhood to make him a better person.” The Democratic National Committee sent reporters a blog post by a liberal advocacy site, ThinkProgress, that blasted Pawlenty’s position as comprising “massive giveaways to the rich golfing elite.”