ARDMORE, Pa. - The golfer on the tee is cataloging all the possibilities and memories in his mind as he stands over the ball, waiting, waiting, waiting to hit. Then his reverie is shattered by a voice that says, "Hey, when we're young."
The voice belongs to Arnold Palmer, 83, and he is trying to nudge Clint Eastwood, also 83, out of taking forever to hit his shot. It is one of the public service announcements introduced Wednesday by the U.S. Golf Association to address one of golf's biggest problems, on Long Island and elsewhere: It takes too darned long to play.
Ninety-one percent of serious golfers said in a National Golf Foundation study that they are bothered by slow play, nearly 70 percent said the pace of golf has grown worse over time and about half the people said that they have walked off a course in frustration about the congestion.
"As these numbers demonstrate, the golf community needs to act to address pace-of-play issues and they need to act now," USGA president Glen Nager said at Merion Golf Club Wednesday, on the eve of the U.S. Open here.
In an effort to gain attention for that cause, the USGA has enlisted a quote from Rodney Dangerfield's character in "Caddyshack" to Judge Smails, as he deliberately addresses a ball: "Let's go, while we're young." It can be seen as a stretch that the USGA, with its button-down image, would identify with the Dangerfield character. Many golf observers would have suggested the USGA would be more likely to be associated with the judge.
"Well, the idea sprang from the need," Nager said, with a smile. "This iconic expression was it. And if that's different for the USGA, well then the USGA is going to evolve."
When he was asked if the movie makes him laugh, Nager said, "Oh, absolutely."
Another public service announcement has Tiger Woods fastidiously lining up a putt on a miniature golf course only to have a young boy yell from behind him, "While we're young!"
The campaign is more than a series of catchy commercials. The USGA has set up a website, usga.org/whilewereyoung, at which it is asking golfers and facilities to sign a pledge to improve pace of play. That will open an exchange of information to help ease the problem that, golf industry experts say, is preventing people from taking up the game and causing current golfers to quit.
An interesting aspect of it is that it is not a shot at golfers, telling them to hurry up. Much of Nager's message Wednesday dealt with facilities that have built courses that are increasingly difficult and that send golfers out at intervals that guarantee bottlenecks.
A Newsday reader recently wrote of having arranged for a 2:02 p.m. Sunday tee time at a public course, only to find the fairways jammed with a throng ahead of her. The round took six hours.
Writing about the golf downturn, she said, "My theory isn't that the economy is so bad that people can't afford to golf anymore but rather it's that no one has the time or the [desire] to spend an entire day on a golf course only to be frustrated to the point of committing a homicide."
Nager and the USGA say that all possible solutions are in play, while we're young.