Golf | 13 Sep 2018 | By Michael Vlismas

The karma of Karmis

Peter Karmis

Peter Karmis is going to say a few things Millennials will not like. He’s going to say a few things Feminists won’t like. And he’s going to say a few things Socialists won’t like. In fact, Karmis is guaranteed to offend those who love to be offended. But you need to hear what he has to say.

Things such as, and hold onto your beards all you hipsters, “You can’t have it all”. Right now, cappuccinos are being spat out over MacBook Pros in disgust at a statement of pure heresy in 2018.

It’s not that this Sunshine Tour professional is out of touch. He’s only 37. But Karmis has a touch of Bryson de Chambeau about him. And if professional golf has taught him anything, it’s that a game where he has won six professional titles – including a final round of 59 to win the 2009 Lombard Insurance Classic – is the most truthful expression of what life is actually all about. And unlike his golf, these are things Karmis thinks about deeply.

“When I’m playing golf then it is just simply target, pull the trigger. But I do have other things I think about. Once you have a family, then you’ve got skin in the game. So you care about politics, the economy, values, the state of culture and all those kinds of things,” says the man who won his sixth Sunshine Tour title this year in the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Selborne Golf Estate.

So, what does a golf pro who reads the Bible in Greek and says things like, “I like the Socratic method of thinking things through” think so deeply about as he walks from tee to green in this week’s Vodacom Origins of Golf at Arabella Golf Estate?

“I believe in not just being a sheep and doing what everybody else is doing. It’s my personality to think deeply about things. I enjoy thinking things through and coming up with the right answer.

“I believe there is right and wrong.” Old Tom Morris would’ve agreed, hence the unbreakable, unshakeable Rules of Golf.

“A lot of modern philosophers don’t believe in wrong. They believe everything is fine, whereas I believe firmly in right and wrong and being able to figure this out yourself. I believe in absolute truth.”

Absolute truth, for the golfers out there, is philosophy’s version of a 24-handicapper facing a bare lie with a wedge in hand around a Free State green in the middle of winter, and a thinned shot being the 100% result you expected.

“What’s weird about golf though is that you get away with not being perfect. Golf is not perfect. So in one part of my life I believe there has to be absolute truth, but then in golf you can miss the fairway and still make birdie, or you can hit it close and three putt. Things aren’t as absolute in golf.”

My lesson in Plato’s Theory of Par continues as we stand on the putting green at Arabella Country Estate.

“I think a guy like Bryson de Chambeau questions a lot of things in golf, and certain mechanics in the swing. But in golf I do what I’m told. I see my coach, he tells me what to do and I do it. If you think too much in golf you can get confused, and if something is working for me on the golf course then I don’t mess with it.”

And yet Karmis’s philosophical bent does help his golf.

“When you’re a professional golfer you learn to block out a lot of things. If you go on a streak of missed cuts, it gets you down. But if you look at it philosophically you can get through it. For example,

I believe in capitalism. I think it’s the best economic system. And golf is pure capitalism. The winner gets the most, and if you miss the cut you get nothing. It’s a battle of merit. The one who plays the best gets rewarded the most. Fundamentally, that’s how society should be. Those who can’t make it in professional golf need to go and find something else, and they will find something they’re good at. And those who are good succeed. Golf is wonderful like that. There is no gaining advantage because you know somebody. Nepotism is largely irrelevant in golf. Where you come from is irrelevant. What you believe is irrelevant. All these things society wants you to be tolerant of, golf is the equalizer of these things. All that matters is that the best player wins and does the best. Simple as that.”

Feminists, look away now.

“It’s all about creating value. If more people are watching women’s sport, then women should get paid the most. If it’s the other way around, then that’s where the value is. It’s nothing personal. It’s basic economics. I used to moan about the smaller size of purses in some tournaments I played in. But then I realised, that’s what the market wants to pay. That’s the market’s value for that event. You can’t argue with that.”

Yet Karmis loves a good argument. Or rather, a good debate.

“Questioning has always been important in my family. We all have strong opinions and it makes for enjoyable family occasions. But I care about these things as well. It’s not just that I like to think about them. I care about them.

“But it’s difficult today to present a logical argument and then have people look at the argument. What’s happening today is that if you say something offensive to people they freak out instead of looking at the argument. They look at you as a person and where you come from rather than you as an individual. You’re looked at as a group. The world is not conducive to rational discussion at the moment. If something’s offensive, then it goes straight into a meltdown instead of having a discussion about it. There’s not discussion, just emotional reaction.

“I’m a bit tired of the offensive culture of today. A hundred years ago 18 year olds were going to World War II and putting their lives on the line. Young men were marching off to be shot up to pieces. Today the same age group is obsessed about people offending them. It’s a bit ridiculous.

“We need perspective. We’re much wealthier than we were a hundred years ago. Just looking at my own kids. We just throw used nappies away these days. My parents had to wash the nappies. Just think about the logistics of that. Things are easier for us today. No doubt. People are often freaking out about trivial issues when they don’t realise how privileged they are to live in the 21st Century. Again, a hundred years ago at my age I’d probably be in a trench somewhere fighting a war. Yet here I am playing golf for a living. Perspective is key. Those in today’s generation that grasp this will be successful, because their peers are too busy whingeing about nothing.”

Karmis could very well be channelling more Ben Hogan than Rickie Fowler. And he’d have a far greater affinity with the sacrifice for his sport of a Gary Player than the pros of his own generation.

“With life there are trade-offs for everything. You can’t be the CEO of a company and be a hands-on parent. You have to choose. You can’t have it all. You need to choose. I want to play professional golf, so it means I will be away from home. That’s the sacrifice my family and I make. That’s the trade-off for doing what I love versus doing a 9-5 job.

“Of course I worry about money and job security. Everybody does. If you’re a struggling pro then you think the grass is greener on the other side. Or if you hate your job, you think being a pro athlete is better. I believe where you are is where you need to be. And the grass is not greener on the other side. You can play pro golf and not like traveling and being away from home, or you can have a job at a company and not like traveling. Whatever it is, it comes with it’s own set of problems and trade-offs.

“The youth of today are freaking out about everything and not grasping the concept of trade-offs and that, no, actually you can’t have it all. For this particular choice there are these sacrifices and rewards.”

“Absolute truth,” I say.

“Yes. Think about what’s true. When you know what’s true, then it’s easier to know what’s not true.”

And that’s when I think Peter Karmis is a lot more Yoda than Bryson de Chambeau after all.