I wasn't surprised when I heard that smoking was going to be
banned at last week's International. I grew up in California but
moved to Colorado 17 years ago, and it's a fantastic place to
live and raise a family. We've had a problem this summer,
however. Our governor, Bill Owens, said it best: "The whole
state is burning up."
Unless you've been hibernating for the last couple of months,
you know that Colorado has been in the news because of its
numerous forest fires. One of the worst (the Hayman fire) came
within 10 miles of Castle Pines Golf Club. It has been so dry
that many courses in Colorado had already banned smoking before
last week, and while it may have been unusual for such a ban to
be in effect at a PGA Tour event, the ban was absolutely
necessary. Heck, it's been so dry that you can almost rub
together two pieces of wood and start a fire.
Making the Tour players, the caddies and the spectators quit
their habits for a week wasn't too much to ask. I don't smoke,
but even if I did, I would think that the ban was the right
thing to do. I felt bad for players who have a serious habit. I
chewed tobacco for several years before I was finally able to
quit, and I'll tell you this, I dreamed about tobacco for months
afterward. Believe me, I understand the addiction. I also
realize what nicotine can do to you. It can grab you by the
throat, almost literally. Still, being a smoker doesn't make you
a bad person (although some Californians might disagree).
We heard about the Castle Pines ban at the John Deere Classic a
week before the ban went into effect. One Tour player, who
doesn't smoke, asked another player, who is a smoker, what he
was going to do. The smoker simply shrugged his shoulders and
said, "Oh, well." He didn't gripe about not being able to smoke.
He didn't say that he was going to smoke anyway, or that he
wouldn't go to the International because of the ban. He
understood. I hope everybody did. And in the long run, walking
all those hills at Castle Pines without lighting up, the smokers
were better off.
Mark Wiebe, 44, has two victories in 19 years on Tour.
COLOR PHOTO: JOE MITCHELL/AP It would have been a mistake for the players to do a slow burn over the smoking ban at Castle Pines