Having ceremoniously burned a golf magazine, the cost of which was outrageous, my brow is as yet unsoothed from the excesses of a young pro's account of why he is not winning tournaments.
Knowing the young man as I do, and having known him from a time prior to his untutored media days, I find myself gasping for a breath of common sense, desperate to inhale a snort of reality.
The reality, of course, is that we all eventually find our place in the order of things. It was Grey in his renowned elegy who reflected 'let not ambition mock their useful toil', and I am certainly not mocking ambition - indeed, I applaud it - but I draw the line at the point where people take leave of their senses.
For someone making around the half-a-million pound mark annually to complain about being beleaguered with swing hitches and the effort required to rectify is too much for me. Before bemoaning the awful effort required to groove the swing and getting between one sunny golfing tournament venue and the next, while being paid handsomely for doing little more than making the weekend cut, the lad should think on his golfing peers that he left behind who daily have to wrestle with reality - his peers who at one time challenged him, tested him to the limits and in the process helped hone his golfing prowess, who continue to live an altogether different life.
They persist with their golf while holding down a job in the real world to provide for hearth and home. They may agonise over a putting glitch but at the same time their best efforts have to be made in meeting mortgage payments and servicing the family car, while putting a bit away for the family holiday at a golfing venue in the sun. Were I reading about such guys bemoaning their lot I would understand it.
In these sporting modern times, the amateur golfer has all but disappeared from the sports pages. The cult of personality has eclipsed that of talent and, when it has not, the two have become confused. The talented amateur has become a rare breed for he, understandably, only remains such long enough to obtain a Tour card and start to harvest the cheques. One can respect, even admire achievement and monetary success but the adulation should be reserved for the talented amateur who remains a scratch player while yet making his way in the real world.
The continuity of the game is generally carried on the back of the talented amateur. The slog of committee work in the clubs, the organisation of tournaments and the general dogsbody stuff of golf at the grassroots level are all too often left to the talented amateur for whom there is little reward. Meanwhile the pro, who turns up for this or that charity event, is bankrolled by a sponsor while making hay out of the press release that he is giving his all to support the grass roots of the game.
It is hard to empathise with a pro golfer struggling with his game even as one appreciates that, while he is struggling with his game, he is in fact struggling to make his living.
It would, however, require a heart of stone for any golfer not to feel the deepest sympathy for a truly talented amateur who develops problems with is game. He cannot readily access a Harmon, a Leadbetter or a putting guru, far less a diminutive Belgian general-purpose mind bender. He has simply to get on with it, no matter what the suffering.
My playing companion of long standing has developed a problem that superstition forbids me to name - but I will risk saying that it starts with an 's' and ends with a 'k'. Like everyone who knows him, I hold this man in the highest esteem for, while working at his profession - where he literally held people's lives in his hands, he also maintained a scratch game of golf that was a joy to behold. Such is his golfing action that it seemed it could continue undisturbed forever. In simplicity it appeared effortless and in reproducibility it was as faithful as a photocopier.
And yet, suddenly, like throwing a switch, this hellish infirmity afflicted him. I was there, I saw it and prayed that it was a momentary lapse; but it has stayed and come to occupy him. Every so often it emerges, indeed erupts like a suppurating sore that one thinks has healed.
The hellish thing about this sort of ailment is that it occupies the mind. It is constantly anticipated so that even when it does not materialise its threatening presence nevertheless effects the play. The net result, of course, is that the whole game is changed. The shot is not what it was. A tentativeness creeps in and the fluid certainty becomes gritty and noticeably hesitant.
Relative to my friend's game, mine would be flattered to be described as mediocre. My game could accommodate his infirmity and hardly be affected. My mind has so many preoccupations with impending catastrophe that to add another would be like adding a bean sprout to a stir-fry. I would that I could absorb this thing from him so that we could get back to normal. Sadly such afflictions are not that easily treated so he will continue to suffer the uncertainty in silence and his friends will continue to suffer with him.
To the amateur player the game is an enjoyment; like all sports it is a celebration of life. As such, excellence in the game is something that is to be admired and appreciated. When a glitch occurs and persists there is nothing for it but to live with it. For this the amateur player merits the utmost respect for he knows that moaning is impermissible.
It is even less permissible for a pro player to bemoan his current shortcomings. That he should solicit sympathy while making millions on manicured perfect golfing venues in virtually constant sunshine is really a bit much to expect. Indeed it is a bit thick. In fact it is positively oleaginous.
|| 11 - AUGUST 2003