If I May: Patrick Reed, the Media and Family
Issue   |   Tue, 04/10/2018 - 21:34

It is an easy story to write. Patrick Reed has just won The Masters, perhaps the most prestigious individual sporting event in the United States. His parents Bill and Jeanette and sister Hannah tear up as they watch him win — not in person, though. They are watching on television, from their living room just a few miles from Augusta National Golf Course, where the tournament is held. Reed and his family have been estranged since 2012, when his parents expressed disapproval with him marrying so young. They were not invited to the wedding. Two years later, Bill and Jeanette’s friends had extra passes to the U.S. Open, so they attempted to go watch their son. Justine Reed, Patrick’s wife, had them escorted off the course by police.

After Reed won The Masters on Sunday, numerous golf writers wrote moving stories about Reed’s parents’ bittersweet afternoon. They were able to watch their son achieve what he’d always dreamed of, but they weren’t able to share it with him. One writer admitted to tearing up on the phone along with Bill Reed as the winning father described his wish to just give Patrick a hug. Simply relaying that sentence here made me slightly emotional.

It is no surprise that the media has latched on to this narrative. Reed has often been portrayed as a villain. In college, he alienated his teammates with his intensity and was accused of cheating during practice rounds. On the PGA Tour, he is known as one of the more solitary players. In 2014, after winning a tournament, he declared that he believed himself to be one of the top five players in the world, even though he was ranked 20th at the time and had never even played in a major. This type of behavior is, understandably, not popular on the PGA Tour, or in any professional sports league. By drawing attention to his strained relationship with his family, the media furthers this villain narrative while creating sympathetic figures in his parents.

I don’t believe that the situation is that simple. It is important to note that, through all of this, only one side is really talking. Bill and Jeanette Reed have been vocal in their longing for a relationship with their son. Justine Reed, a few years ago, accused Reed’s family of being abusive in a Facebook post, but for the most part has stayed relatively quiet. Reed himself has been nearly completely silent through all of this. On Sunday, Alan Shipnuck, a well-known golf journalist, asked Reed if it was bittersweet to not be able to share his epic victory with his family. “I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments,” replied Reed.

Shipnuck described this response as “cold-blooded.” I would describe it as guarded. Reed’s parents have been clear that they want a relationship with Patrick, but they have not been clear about how exactly their relationship ended. Perhaps Justine Reed is being truthful when she accuses Reed’s parents of abusive behavior. After all, there are endless stories about troublesome sports parenting, especially of athletes who eventually reach the highest levels. Perhaps Reed is reluctant to discuss the issue is not because he is a cold person, but because he wants to protect his family from any criticism it might receive. I don’t know what he’s thinking — no one does — and that’s the important thing here. No one, except for those involved, knows the specifics of why Reed’s relationship with his family is so strained. I wish that the media would present this issue with more uncertainty, instead of furthering a narrative that is more eye-catching and heartbreaking. The story would be no less interesting.