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What’s in a (Nick) Name?

Where’s the Beef?  The Beef as in Andrew Johnston, professional English golfer who became famous at The Open in 2016.  He was embraced by his home crowd due in large part to his dumpy looks, hairy face, and happy-go-lucky demeanor.  And he was given the nickname Beef because of all of that plus he just looks like a side of beef.  He’s since accepted and celebrated that moniker and now, whenever anyone talks of Beef during a conversation about professional golf, there is no doubt of whom they are speaking.

Nicknames are nothing new in golf.  There’s quite an extensive list that we have come to know many great golfers by.  There’s The Big Easy (Els), Boom Boom (Couples), The Squire (Sarazen), The Mechanic (Jiminez), and of course, The King (Palmer) to list a few.

What is the procedure for giving and gaining a nickname?  Certainly, it would (and should) be frowned upon to give one to your self, although Tiger may be the exception….but, then again, his father gave him that one when he was a kid I believe.  I venture it is the domain of players and sports writers to assign them in professional golf.  Nicknames are what you get when you are part of a club, part of the inside group.  It seems most tend to be derived from playing attributes – smooth swing, long ball hitter, etc…, some from physical attributes, and others from impact on the game.

In the Navy and Marine Corps, aviators are all given nicknames – or call signs – early in a career and these call signs follow them the rest of their time in service…and beyond.  Call signs are assigned, much like in golf, based on just about anything and at a “formal” gathering called a Kangaroo Court.  When determining a call sign, unless the pilot has already done something that begs for nickname, members of the squadron generally first take a look at his/her last name.  An example may be that if your last name is Hindman, your call sign will in all likelihood become Buster.  Let’s say your name is Cable….call sign Snappa.  Get it?  It may be that he’s done something unfortunate that he would really like to forget – this is prime grist for the call sign mill.  I recall a young Lieutenant Cobra pilot who, after landing his aircraft with his instructor pilot, got out of his cockpit seat to check fluids leaking (as is normal procedure) before the  instructor pilot shut down the helicopter.  This guy saw a fluid on the ground under the tail boom, tested it with his finger thinking it might be oil or hydraulic fluid, tasted it – as oil and hyd fluid taste different – only to find out later that he had actually sampled the urine of the plane captain who had taxied them to their parking spot.  Call sign – Samples.  I know 4 star generals now that I still call by their call signs – the nick names endure, as they should.

I like to play golf at my club because there is a great group of guys who compete.  There aren’t so many nick names in the group, but there are a few.  I like to think a nick name is a moniker of endearment, that said, you can really get tagged with an unfortunate one if you’re not careful.  Just consider Assman (due to his uncanny resemblance to Kramer from Seinfeld) or Boner (I’ve known two people with this call sign – both not really happy with it).  So, if you end up with a nick name like Chili (chili dipping) or Topper at your local club…don’t get downtrodden.  Take it as a sign you’re part of the club, the team, one of the guys.  Then, get even.


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