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Social Media Trolls Have Become a Blight on Golf

By: | Tue 09 May 2023

For this week's View From The Fairway column, Derek Clements addresses the impact of social media trolls in golf, including the recent online abuse of Brendan Lawlor.

IT GOES without saying that social media is now part and parcel of modern life and can be used as a force for good. But as any celebrity who lives in the public eye will tell you, it can and is used far too often to abuse people.

Worst of all is that those who post online abuse seldom have to face the consequences. You will remember that after England lost to Italy in the final of the Euros at Wembley, the three footballers who missed penalties found themselves subjected to a barrage of abuse. It was shameful. All the more so because all three young men happened to be black. Forget the fact that without Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka the team wouldn’t have reached the final.

When Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter defected to LIV Golf in 2022 they would have expected to be asked some difficult questions by the world’s media. And with all due respect to all three of them, the media were entitled to ask those questions.

Sadly, it was all too predictable that Poulter, Westwood, Garcia and every golfer who threw their lot in with LIV would all be abused on social media. And that is exactly how it panned out. Incredibly, it is still going on.

And when three announced that they were quitting the DP World Tour for good, it all happened again. Not only that, but there was more vitriol aimed at DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

It goes on and on and on.

But I was speechless when I learnt that Brendan Lawlor had been a victim after his appearance at the ISPS Handa Championship on the DP World Tour.

Lawlor is one of the world’s best disabled golfers, a young man who has had to live with a condition called Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome - a bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs. It has presented him with endless challenges and he has spent much of his life in operating theatres and recovery rooms.

Despite that, he lives his life with a smile on his face and is determined to pursue his dream of successfully competing against able-bodied golfers on the DP World Tour.

He received a sponsor's invite to play in the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan, where he missed the cut after rounds of 81 and 77 that in no way reflected the ability he possesses. He was disappointed with his performance but that was nothing when he realised he had been targeted by morons about his height and condition online after the DP World Tour posted videos of him during his appearance.

Lawlor has shared a selection of the negative comments in a social media post, where he also released a lengthy video highlighting the damaging impact the messages could have for disability sport. I have no intention of repeating some of the things that were said.

Lawlor said: "I got a beautiful start in Japan, had a fabulous week, and the DP World Tour shared a video which went viral. It got some amazing feedback, real positive, but unfortunately it got some real negative.

"I just wanted to get on and highlight how bad the negative was and, if you weren't in the frame of mind to take this negativity, of what it could do to people.

"I'm lucky enough where my condition has never affected me. I've grown up all my life with negative comments and I blew them off with the breeze, but I wanted to hop on and highlight these comments for other people.

"Disability people are putting themselves out there now on a platform, DP World Tour are sharing videos, and I don't want these guys to get slandered online with nasty comments.

"It's going to happen anyway, but we've broken down so many barriers in the world of golf and I feel this was the opportunity for me to highlight this barrier and maybe overcome this one as well.

"These guys are putting themselves out there for other people to put themselves out there and it's a roll-on affect. We're trying to get more disability people into sport in general and I just think the comments are damaging.

"I'm all for equality of opportunity and that's what we're showcasing on the DP World Tour. I hope we can go further and comments like this don't affect our players and people in general."

Lawlor will be among the players in action at the inaugural G4D Open this week, a three-day event at Woburn featuring 80 of the world's most talented golfers with disabilities.

Lawlor is fine young man who is a shining example of everything that is good about golf and I am certain that he is the one who is going to have the last laugh. The trolls should be ashamed of themselves.

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Tags: PGA Tour lpga LIV Golf LET FedEx Cup european tour dp world tour

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