Outside of polo and other equestrian sports, golf could be considered one of the most elitist leisure activities in the Western world. The game is the stuff of country clubs and old money, and it is because of this that golf is considered to be a notoriously conservative sport – and perhaps why it is so shocking that a recent anonymous poll conducted by golf.com found that out of 52 professional golfers surveyed, nearly 60 percent of respondents said that the PGA Tour should allow players to use Cannabis (currently, it is illegal for tour players to partake). The survey also found that just about 30 percent of the top-ranked 125 players in the world regularly use CBD.
Those stats are what make the subject of this month’s Highly Likely column such a head-scratching case study in the still-stigmatized world of Cannabis usage and professional sports.
Matt Every is a professional golfer from Daytona Beach, Florida who has won tournaments on both the PGA Tour and on the Nationwide Tour. While he likely wishes it weren’t the case, Every may be the first professional golfer to openly admit to Cannabis usage. And he’s received two different tour suspensions from the PGA as a result.
He told the Guardian in 2020, “I don’t like being known for the marijuana stuff. It sucks for me because I feel like I’m an extremely genuine person, but face-to-face interaction doesn’t carry as much weight as a Google search or an Instagram page.”
About a decade ago, Every was banned from the tour for 90 days for suspected possession of Cannabis. Then in 2019, he was handed another three-month ban for testing positive for THC, despite having a prescription as a medical patient. In the interview with the Guardian he went on to say, “First of all, I’ve never done it when playing golf on the PGA Tour … anyone who says you can get an advantage has never done it. You can throw depth perception out the window, feel, touch, awareness, everything. You’d have zero chance. It’s a lazy argument.”
The pro golfer hasn’t been shy about talking about his struggles with mental health and depression – which he uses Cannabis to treat. Golf is a notoriously mental game and if your head isn’t in the right place, it can be difficult to play your best.
While Every hasn’t won any majors this season, he’s still out there playing professional golf. The sport is notoriously brutal when it comes to winning streaks (there are very few Tiger Woods in the world). But we’re rooting for Every to get hot again on the links.
At this point in history, it doesn’t seem that the PGA is ready to recognize the benefits of this plant that we all love so much. CBD, however, does seem to be a different matter for the organization. While the Association did send a missive out to tour players warning them that because CBD is federally unregulated, its usage may result in a positive drug test, that hasn’t stopped many pro players from endorsing or investing in CBD brands. Even golf legends like Bubba Watson have endorsements with manufacturers.
Because golf is played outdoors and is a social/athletic activity, it is seeing a resurgence in popularity during the time of COVID. One can only hope with more and more persons attracted to this once elitist sport, that the stigma around Cannabis and golf will slowly start to change.
(Full disclosure: The author is an avid golfer and smokes Cannabis on the course, feeling that it does, indeed, improve their game.)