OPINION

Reality TV stars deserve thanks, not scorn, for showing an interest in golf

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Celebrity culture these days: where an appearance on a reality TV show racks up a social media following so big and so soon that the next six months is spent receiving hefty cheques from companies looking to shift their latest teeth-whitening kit.

Vast swathes of the British public resent the way these celebrities have ‘made it’, and that's easy to understand, but with a large following comes product exposure and the opportunity to reach as wide an audience as possible – and no one is more keen to jump on that bandwagon than European Tour CEO Keith Pelley.

He’s quite right to do so, too, and it was never more evident than at the British Masters this week, which witnessed two new arrivals on the pro-am scene – Gaz Beadle, star of MTV’s Geordie Shore, and Chris Hughes, contestant on this year’s ITV show Love Island – both of whom were playing alongside Ian Poulter.

Before you criticise their 'celebrity' credentials, hear me out.

Chris was a total unknown before the latest series of Love Island started in June this year. Now, he has a Twitter following of 416,000 - 15 times as many as 2016 European Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters - as well as 1.8m followers on Instagram.

That's more than any professional golfer on the platform - and he's got there in just FOUR months.

Gaz's numbers are even more impressive, with 3.3m on Instagram and 2.56m on Twitter which, if he was a professional golfer, would give him the third largest following behind only Tiger Woods (6.27m) and McIlroy (3.18m).

He tweeted more than 20 times in the build-up to the pro-am, engaging with fellow reality star Chris and also Poulter, while he also posted numerous pictures and videos while playing in the pro-am on Snapchat, where 71% of its users are under the age of 34.

If that isn't helping to create a buzz and interest about the event, what is?

What’s more, in this interview (below) with Henni Goya prior to Tuesday night’s Hero Challenge, Gaz proved to be, in actual fact, the epitome of a lazy image the general public have of golf that the European Tour is desperate to change.

"I was one of those people that, three or four years ago, if you’d asked me about golf I would have said, ‘It’s boring, crap, this and that’," he said. "But now I don’t even go out anymore – I just think about playing golf and I play three or four times per week."

Nevertheless, comments such as this followed.

These people are missing the point. Rather than being a 'parasite' isn't he actually the perfect pro-am partner?

He is helping to make a huge chunk of society aware that golf (a) exists and (b) isn't the stuffy, boring sport that many still perceive it to be.

We can criticise the paths to stardom taken by Gaz, Chris and others like them - but we certainly can’t be critical of the fact that, this week, they have done their part in helping golf reach a wider audience.

For that, we should be thankful, not scornful.

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