For years professional golf was blissfully free of the clutter of statistics that obscure achievement in many another sport. The only two stats followed by the golfing world were stroke average per round and money winnings. That seemed logical because golf is the most basic of pro sports. If you make the shots, you make money. If you don't, you go home and get a job.
Then in 1980 the PGA Tour introduced eight statistical categories ranging from driving distance to percentage of sand saves (getting up and down in two shots or fewer from a greenside bunker), and most golf fans across the country have been ignoring them ever since.
Those numbers remind me of the estimates one sees occasionally of the worth of the calcium, potassium, magnesium and other components of the human body (in the last published estimate, the total cash value was $7.28). It's a popcorn fact: tasty, but largely devoid of nutritional value.
I'll concede that one of the eight golf stats, greens in regulation—that is, getting on the green so that two putts would achieve par—has some merit. It is a measure of accuracy, and Calvin Peete has been No. 1 in that category the last three years. "Everybody says Calvin isn't a good putter," says tour player Tommy Valentine. "He doesn't have to be great when he's putting for birdies every hole."
By and large I find the new golf stats superfluous, but apparently there are those who don't share my distaste. Practice House Golf, Inc. of South Bend, Ind. asks the Sunday golfer to pay $2 for a chart-filled booklet "to log the same statistics as that of the professional for 24 rounds."
After you have filled in the blanks, you send the booklet back to Practice House, which returns a computerized analysis of your game as it compares to those of others who send in booklets. However, even the pros don't wait breathlessly for those stats every week. They look at stroke average and money winnings. Spend the $2 on a bucket of range balls instead.