The recent vile weather has surprised me into a frenzy of spring cleaning. I needed something to do, after all, when my better half and his two boys took off to a Storm Ciara battered premier league football match in Sheffield a couple of Sundays ago. Every time he rang to check in he promised that “the weather’s really not bad here at all”. Amazingly that narrow band of “not bad at all” weather stretched from the Welsh borders all the way across the Pennines to the steel city and back again – while everywhere else in the country was on its knees. So, the spring cleaning was my antidote to anxiety and worry.
I was delighted, however, to put down the feather duster to watch Adam Scott win the Genesis Invitational last weekend at the quality venue of Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. The genial Aussie is almost seven years removed from his Masters win and at 39 years of age he is as committed as ever to adding to his haul of wins, particularly in the majors. This win at Riviera is very important to him – it’s his first on the PGA Tour since 2016 and he saw off the challenges of Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar amongst others. Reflecting afterwards that it had been “a long time between drinks” he added: “I’m stoked with this. It’s a big step, whatever point in my career I’m at. I haven’t won for three years. This feels very special.”Special also was his victory in the Australian PGA in December on the European Tour. That particular success brought an end to a six-year drought in Europe and Scott’s current policy of limiting his play, almost starving himself of competition, thus ramping up his desire and enthusiasm to be out on tour, seems to be working admirably. Back up to seventh in the world rankings, he could be contending in one or more of the majors this year. If that’s the case you won’t find me complaining – golf couldn’t have a better ambassador.
The very next day I found myself at my very first British Junior Golf Tour event, the Winter Cup, played at Portal Golf Club in Cheshire. Eighty-seven boys and girls from the length and breadth of the country turned up for this opening two-day event on a schedule that runs from now till October at numerous different venues.
On this occasion there were five different divisions, all age- and distance-related, with the competitors playing over 9 or 18 holes dependent on the category. With the caddies (mostly Dads) all wearing caddy bibs and with sponsor signage at the 1st tee this did, indeed, feel like a proper little mini tour event. Each boy and girl was announced on the 1st tee and the ones I saw couldn’t wait to get up there and take centre stage. If there were nerves, they seemed to be jangling in the parents’ bodies, not the kids’ – or maybe it was just the cold, blustery weather making them shiver?!
Whatever, it was joyful to see so many youngsters and also really quite an eye-opener. No cut-down clubs as in my day, no carry bags that you took yourself – rather names on bags and the aforementioned caddies. It’s all quite clever really. No caddies allowed on the greens means the juniors have to learn the skill of green behaviour, tending the flag if necessary and getting on with making their own decisions re line and pace and so on. In fact, I don’t believe that any coaching is permissable at all and the adults are a big part of keeping play moving and helping with rulings. Lots of daily prizes are presented as well as the overall prizes. If you have any little ones in your life and would love to introduce them to the wonderful world of golf, do have a look at the British Junior Golf Tour website. It’s a fun, safe place that teaches invaluable life lessons – bravo for the BJGT!
Back to the weather and my own playing year has got off to a slow start because I’ve become a reasonably fair weather player nowadays. It looks like the feather duster may get another outing or two around the house, judging by the forecast, but very shortly I’ll be diving into my prep for the first of the season’s majors, namely the Masters. Traditionally, there are around 90 -100 players invited each year to Augusta’s green and pleasant land and I’ll have little biographies done of them all, with one or two interesting little snippets about each of them at my fingertips, before I board that transatlantic flight.
Much of how I prepare and what I do comes from having worked with, and known, some of the best in the industry. Hazel Irvine, who presented the golf on the BBC for years, was prepared for anything and could have filled hours of airtime on her own: Ken Brown taught me how to distill information into descriptive-laden phrases and I learned a lot from Peter Alliss about observational humour. But when all’s said and done you have to do it your own way and trial and error is a great teacher – which is exactly what those little juniors on the BJGT will be learning without realising it.