In a past life I spent hours working with kids who had misbehaved in all kinds of settings. I’ve been the teacher having a one-on-one meeting pleading with a student to just be nice to a classmate. I’ve sat with two kids who had been in verbal or physical fights, trying to get them to see error in their ways and restore some sort of relationship, even if that just means coexisting in math class and the hallways without sneers, jeers, or any other passive aggressive nonsense. I’ve been the teacher scolding a class or grade for disrespectful behavior when they made a mockery of a substitute teacher or assembly speaker.
For the last year, the Bryson DeChambeau -Brooks Koepka situation has given me flashbacks to my life as a teacher and Dean of Students. The scientist and the wanna-be jock bickering in-person and online nearly every week. Both men gathering some sort of following behind them like they’re about to head to the flagpole at 3pm for the final altercation that just never seems to happen. Just like middle school, people with absolutely no skin in the game, other than needing to be involved in something, have found their way into the story. In this case, it’s the fans yelling “Brooksy” at Bryson to get under his skin. A constant reminder of the feud between the two, and an opportunity to make clear whose side they are on.
In the caldron of competition this weekend at the BMW it nearly came to a head in almost exactly the way it would have in the school cafeteria. Picture Bryson, just having learned he failed a science test. Dejected and annoyed at all the careless errors he made. He wanders through the food line and towards his favorite table to mix his protein shake and eat his lunch with a few of his buddies (Bryson does have friends…). As he stews in his own failure, some kid just says, “What ya got for lunch today, Brooksy?” The table snickers at the dumb joke, but Bryson, having had enough, turns on his heels and strides towards the table ready for a fight. According to Kevin Van Valkenburg in his piece for ESPN, this is what happened after the BMW. Bryson had reached his boiling point and had an altercation with a fan that yelled, “Way to go Brooksy!"“ after Bryson lost his six hole playoff to Patrick Cantlay.
Meanwhile, Brooks just gets to sit back and watch the world burn, tasking his cronies with the dirty business of getting into Bryson’s head without an ounce of guilt. He even used Michelob Ultra to egg on his “defenders” earlier this spring to entice fans to keep “supporting him.”
This is not Brooks’ first rodeo. He knows how to make people feel like crap. He’s not afraid of altercations and he’s competitive, even ruthless at times. Whereas, I think Bryson is out of his depth. Before March 2020, he was the skinny kid that wore a funny hat and played with odd clubs. He says dumb, questionable stuff, both about the sport, the shots he hits, and the shots he refuses to get (for the benefit of others…).
On Tuesday, Jay Monahan called an emergency all-school meeting and scolded the students for their behavior. He told everyone that yelling “Brooksy” would not be tolerated anymore because it’s disrespectful. From now on any fans that does yell out “Brooksy” will be kicked off the premises, if that person can be identified.
I’ve also experienced this chapter in Monahan’s Brooks-Bryson rivalry. The hope that a threat, and maybe a few examples of power, will whip the entire group into shape. The threat is usually empty, or impossible to adjudicate in such a large setting. These aren’t dress code violations (another horrible part of my past life). These are screams coming from a collection of people among thousands. One or two needles in a massive, drunk haystack. Fans will need to be caught red-handed (red-mouthed?) for any of this threat to actually work.
Fans are kicked out of golf events all the time for dumb stuff. A guy asked Patrick Reed to sign his shovel; the fan was shown the door immediately. Shane Ryan wrote that Brooks needs to call off the dogs, but here’s the problem with that, they aren’t his dogs anymore. If we know anything these days, it’s that viruses spread rather quickly. Bryson has not made himself terribly likable these past few months, and the “Brooksy” thing is just a symptom of a greater problem for Bryson. He’s not well-liked among golf fans. It has less and less to do with Brooks Koepka and more and more to do with Bryson.
This is not victim blaming, but fans, just like middle schoolers, spend their days looking for ways to get a reaction from the weakest links. Go to any golf tournament and idiots are on their phone recording golfers walking by as they yell something, anything, to get a reaction they can post online, even if it’s just a quick turn of the head at a ridiculous statement.
When things like “Brooksy” are addressed out in the open, it can help quench the flames of idiocy, but it can also have a different effect - like a virus, it can mutate into something else. I imagine, a new phrase will be born from this sanction on “Brooksy.” It might be as innocent as fans openly rooting for whoever Brooks is playing with, screaming their name in the same vein as “Brooksy.” Heck, the fans had baptized Patrick Cantlay “Patty” by Sunday’s playoff.
Bryson will be teeing it up with Jon Rahm on Thursday and Friday at the Tour Championship, I’m willing to bet that screams of “Jonny” will will be heard during the first two days. Saturday, typically the most rambunctious day for golf fans considering hangovers are ailed on Sunday than Monday could bring about some other creative chants that signal to Bryson, and Jay Monahan, that they can’t be stopped.
This might sound like teacher mumbo-jumbo, but the only real way to squash this entire thing is to pull Brooks and Bryson together for some sort of discussion so they aren’t speaking about this mess through press conferences and the media. While they think they’re being brave by addressing it when asked, all it’s doing is making it worse.
Or maybe, it just needs to run its course; I personally don’t think it will. Maybe the “Brooksy Ban” will actually work. Maybe the two do need to meet under the flagpole at 3pm after a round of golf. The biggest challenge working at a school was that each situation , while they felt the same, was different due to the personalities involved.
At least Monahan doesn’t have to worry about emails and phone calls from their parents…