OPINION

Vax or Fiction: "Pros' reluctance to get vaccine is a bad look"

Covid Vaccine

Imagine my surprise, dear reader. Sitting in the belly of SSE Hydro in Glasgow, minutes after receiving my second dose of the COVID-busting Pfizer vaccine, I pulled my phone from my pocket and glanced at the top right of the screen. 

Two bars.

Worse yet, I was only rocking 4G. Four! I had been led to believe that getting jabbed would make me a one-man super-conductor for 5G, but no.

I was stunned.

Except I wasn’t. Not really. When it comes to medical matters, I tend to take my advice from those who have made science their vocation rather than Tam the sceptic who failed his chemistry GCSE. I assumed most people did. Naively, as it turns out.

Consider a tweet posted – and later deleted – by PGA Tour journeyman Charlie Beljan. Enraged at having to withdraw from the Bermuda Championship because he had not been vaccinated, the 36-year-old American branded the pandemic a “hoax”, adding: “Fuck Bermuda and all you Nazis pushing this agenda.”

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Aside from zero empirical evidence to substantiate his claims of a “hoax”, one is left to wonder if Beljan is aware of what the Nazis actually did. Requiring somebody to provide proof that they’ve been vaccinated against a disease that has killed almost five million people is hardly the same as a racist, antisemitic programme of ethnic cleansing that pre-empted one of the deadliest conflicts the world has ever seen.

Removing the idiotic attempts at equivalence in Beljan’s tweet, his sentiments are symptomatic of a lackadaisical attitude towards COVID that is worryingly rife on tour.

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How else do you explain the fact that, as of the start of August, only 70% of PGA Tour members had received both doses of the vaccine? That means, in an average full field week, there were around 47 unvaccinated players at that time.

Beljan, clearly, was one. So, too, was Bryson DeChambeau. The 2020 US Open champ told reporters around the same time that he “doesn’t need” the vaccine. “I’m healthy,” he insisted. “I’m a young individual that will continue to be healthy.” Imagine that. A ‘Scientist’ that doesn’t follow the science. Also, “I will continue to be healthy”? Somebody really needs to educate young Bryson on the capricious, unpredictability of individual well-being.

Of course, it is entirely the prerogative of DeChambeau, Beljan and Co. to take or not take the vaccine. Their body, their choice. I respect that. That, though, doesn’t make their decision any easier to accept, far less understand.

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Remember, the PGA Tour returned from its COVID-enforced hiatus in June 2020. Amid an escalating backdrop of fatalities, fear and furlough, the world’s most lucrative professional golf tour was granted the enormous privilege of being allowed to resume. Whilst a reported 9.6 million Americans lost their jobs as a direct result of the pandemic, a fortunate few were allowed to get back to playing for unimaginable sums and return, as near as dammit, to normal.

At the time, Tyler Dennis, the tour’s senior vice-president and chief of operations, spoke of being excited about how “the PGA Tour can play a role in the world’s return to enjoying things we love and doing so in a responsible manner”.

Just over a year on, the attitude and actions of many of the tour’s players have rendered those sentiments hollow and insincere.

There are exceptions, of course. In April, Paul Casey revealed he had been double jabbed because he was “willing to do the things necessary to get through it”. Tellingly, he added: “I don’t know what the consensus is on the PGA Tour in terms of guys wanting to get vaccinated, guys who don’t, conspiracy theories.” He also referred to a discussion about the vaccine between “a bunch of players” and one of the tour’s Player Relations team in which “microchips” had been mentioned. Microchips! 

This is the world now. A world where stupidity is handsomely rewarded; where theories hold more influential than facts; where ugly political discourse has engendered mistrust; where cooperation is a much-vaunted sentiment but selfishness is, for many, the default position.   

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I gather some players have refused the vaccine on religious grounds. Quite why any God would require you to avoid anything that improves your wellbeing and that of those closest to you is beyond me, but okay.  

I have also heard rumours of pros who object to being vaccinated on the grounds of “ethical veganism”. And yet they wear leather shoes.  

Alas, logic appears to be lacking and, on the occasions when it’s not, far too many choose to ignore it. How long before the first PGA Tour pro dispenses with his baseball cap in favour of a tin hat?  

I fully expect many of you will be angry reading this. Whilst that’s not my intention, I accept it. As previously stated, I respect that it’s your right to choose whether or not to have the vaccine. That, though, does not require me to agree with you. Which is just as well, because I don’t.

My enduringly awful WiFi is testament to that. 

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This column first appeared in issue 189 of bunkered (October 2021). For our latest subscription offer, click here. International subscriptions available.

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