PGA Golf Hecklers Highlight The Adverse Effects Of Gambling On Athletes: Jon Rahm, Max Homa Speak Out

A PGA Tour fan is the latest sports bettor to make the news after heckling a player about a bet. As sports betting grows in the U.S., there has been mounting pressure by both individual regulating bodies and — in the case of the PGA — athletes to enforce repercussions for fans who harass athletes for reasons relating to gambling.

Spectators turn into hecklers at PGA Tour event

A spectator and his friend began harassing PGA golfer Max Homa and fellow group-mate Chris Kirk in the third round of the BMW Championship this past weekend. The spectating duo yelled at Kirk, demanding he leave his 18-foot birdie putt short. On Homa’s attempt, the two shouted mid-putt for him to yank his five-foot birdie. Fortunately, Homa was steadfast in his follow-through and sunk the putt. Homa walked off, calling the instigator a clown and a handful of other choice words.

The man and his friend had $3 riding on the outcome.

Homa admitted:

“I love that people can gamble on golf. But that is the one thing I’m worried about.”

Jon Rahm speaks out about heckling

PGA Tour player Jon Rahm discussed the ongoing issue during this week’s Tour Championship. Not only do these situations occur more than we’re aware of, he said. But they’re happening practically every round.

Rahm explained:

“That happens way more often than you guys may hear. I mean, it’s very, very present. In golf, spectators are very close, and even if they’re not directly talking to you, they’re close enough to where if they say to their buddy, ‘I bet you 10 bucks he’s going to miss it,’ you hear it. So it happens more often than you think.”

What this means for the future of sports

By next year’s WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, fans will have access to a brand new DraftKings Sportsbook on location. That means bettors will be able to lock in wagers before each round and then head to the course to watch them play out in real time.

Of course, they’ll still be able to access sportsbook apps directly from their mobile device and place live bets on the course. But a physical DraftKings Sportsbook will allow them to lock in their big wagers beforehand, freeing them up to heckle at will during each round.

Much like DraftKings, FanDuel is also an official gambling partner of the PGA. As of now, the sportsbook has not announced any physical locations at PGA Tour events. However, FanDuel recently added live betting options for golf fans, such as closest-to-the-pin wagers and longest-drive mini-games.

BetMGM, Bet365, and PointsBet also have partnerships with the PGA Tour, opening up additional wagering avenues for fans.

And now that the PGA Tour’s latest ShotLink technology is available, sports bettors have a revolutionary way to interact with the game regardless of the sportsbook they’re using. ShotLink records player stats live during each tournament, giving golf fans immense insight into individual players and situations.

In anticipation of this looming sports betting presence, the PGA Tour debuted a new public service campaign to promote responsible gambling.

New Conduct Codes Are Popping up in the US & Beyond

Golf is far from the only sport this issue is affecting, though. A new state budget bill in Ohio encourages Ohio sports betting regulators to ban anyone — bettor, spectator, player, or otherwise — who makes a gambling-related threat from participating in legal Ohio sports betting. West Virginia has also introduced similar legislation to prevent and such interactions with athletes.

ESPN reports revealed that college athletes nationwide have received an alarming number of gambling-related ultimatums. So much so that the Nevada-based monitoring company U.S. Integrity debuted a tipline called Athlete Alert to give college athletes, coaches, or anyone else to anonymously report issues of abuse.

The problem isn’t just stateside, though. Four U.K. soccer associations recently signed a disciplinary charter to enact new rules curbing inappropriate behavior.

As new states and jurisdictions continue to legalize sports betting, these issues are undoubtedly here to stay.

Alec Cunningham is a lead writer and analyst for She has covered countless online sports betting and casino legislation topics and now specializes in responsible gambling and gambling addiction recovery. In 2022, she served as a panelist at the All-American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry. As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. After working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer, she returned to her love of written word in 2020. Since then, Cunningham's love of sports has led her to become a responsible gambling advocate.

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