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Pipe Dream Doesn’t Cut It

by Jeff Skinner

Like all television networks The Golf Channel is constantly trying to boost its ratings.  One way The Golf Channel has tried to improve its numbers is with some new, original programming this season.  Its new morning show, “The Morning Drive” has potential even though it’s a rip off of ESPN’s “Mike & Mike”.  Two guys sitting around talking sports with an emphasis on golf should certainly appeal to The Golf Channel’s demographics.

Another new show this season, “Pipe Dream” portrays the struggle of a former golf pro that is now homeless and trying to patch his life back together.  The previews for “Pipe Dream” showed Mark Burk living on the streets and sleeping in abandoned pipes along the roadside in Southern California. His pipe dream is to play golf well enough to qualify for The Champions Tour.  It certainly looked like a compelling story.  According to Burk he spent his entire adult life playing golf, sometimes professionally and was unfairly convicted in a domestic dispute with his former girlfriend.  They never mention her name the show but a little web surfing tells us that it is former supermodel Beverly Johnson.

Johnson claimed Burk threatened her and a California court convicted him and gave him three days in jail and 36 months of probation.  Since he was living with Johnson in her home and she was supporting him Burk ended up homeless without any job or money.  Burk insists he is innocent and was framed by Johnson and her friends.  It seems that Burk has chosen to remain unemployed so he can devote his time to his court proceedings and getting back to playing professional golf.

After watching a few episodes it’s difficult to see Burk as a sympathetic character.  He tells us about is early life and how is mother, a successful business women, took care of him financially but never let him work in her businesses.  After she lost her businesses, Burk was left with nothing and had been living with Johnson who supported him.  When asked by a psychiatrist about his work history he says he golfed, sometimes for “a little money.”  The bottom line here is that Burk has never really worked a day in his life and for the average guy working his tail off each week that isn’t too appealing.

The program’s most redeeming aspects is that it sheds a spotlight on the homeless issue in America.  Burk spends plenty of time at a shelter and it is those portions of the program that seem genuine.

Burk’s life on the street isn’t easy but until The Golf Channel showed up it looks like Burk never attempted to find a job.  He has initiated a court action to “clear his name” as he puts it and has used that as an excuse to remain unemployed as he devotes all his efforts to that and returning to professional golf.

It seemed odd that Burk spends so much time on the past and hasn’t moved forward with his life but a simple Google search clears that up.  It appears that there is a little more to Burk’s efforts to clear his name than meets the eye.  He has filed a lawsuit against Johnson for defamation and is seeking $5 million in damages. You can find all this information on Burk’s own website, Mark Burk.com. Now I get it.  Nothing is ever as it seems.  Burk has been “supported” by others all his life and his effort to pursue his $5 million dollar lawsuit is his next ticket to the good life.  His situation becomes less sympathetic once you get a few of the details of his life.

As far as Burk’s golfing skills it does look like he can play.  Can he play well enough to make it on The Champions Tour?  It doesn’t look like it from the footage on his show.  Many of us have the dream of playing golf for a living and we realize that it is only a dream.  Like many aspects of Burk’s life he has a hard time dealing with reality.  He’s lucky The Golf Channel came along and gave him some motivation and opened some doors for him.  I find it difficult to cheer for Burk, he isn’t a sympathetic figure.  I do hope he can get off the streets but I doubt if he’ll be on The Champions Tour anytime soon.

It was a valiant attempt by The Golf Channel to show the plight of a guy down on his luck to try and come back and “make it.”  However it hasn’t worked out like that.  Maybe the next time they’ll find a subject with a bit more character and appeal.

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