We appear to be awash with golf tournaments at the moment with men’s and women’s majors coming thick and fast. Despite the undoubted talent on display and the exciting playoff victory for South Korea’s Mirim Lee in the ANA Inspiration, the second of the women’s majors, it was another tournament altogether that set my heart racing last weekend.
I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday afternoon doing a little cooking in preparation for friends coming round for dinner. I decided to put the telly on to keep an eye on the European golf from Switzerland (the women) and Portugal (the men). The next two hours passed, on the one hand, in a blur and, on the other, excruciatingly slowly, as I watched Amy Boulden achieve her dream of winning on the Ladies’ European Tour. It took me by surprise – no, not that she won – but because I was unaware at first that it was a Saturday finish. I was busy thinking Amy was setting herself up nicely for Sunday when the penny dropped and it became a television broadcast that demanded more than half an eye on it. This required full attention, concentration and proper undivided support. The kitchen didn’t see me again until the final putt was holed and Amy was holding the trophy as the VP Bank Swiss Ladies’ Open champion.Not many will be surprised by Amy’s victory, rather the surprise is how long it has taken her to win on the main tour. An extremely accomplished amateur record led seamlessly into a great opening year on tour, winning Rookie of the Year honours in 2014. Then the pause button was pressed and it stayed that way for quite a long time. And some players never do manage to hit the “play” button again.
“Nothing weighs you down like great potential,” my sister is always saying to me. Possibly, for Amy, that huge expectation, well-founded though it was, began to affect her negatively the more tournaments she played without that expected first victory. And once a little bit of confidence seeps away it can be hard to stop that trickle turning into a waterfall. So many of us, no matter our level of skill, have experience of fighting our demons. It’s not easy… and OUR livelihoods don’t depend on it!
As I listened to my better half clashing around in the kitchen, having taken over dinner duty, my phone was blowing up with text messages and WhatsApps from the length and breadth of Wales. Most of them were from folk who had known or been involved with Amy at some stage or other during Golf Wales’ coaching back in the day. All were biting their nails, holding their breath and were totally invested in the result. I think Amy would be completely astonished at the pleasure that her win has brought to so, so many people who in the past have walked a small bit of her golfing journey with her.
How I wish my great friend, the late Sue Turner, could have been here to see Saturday’s win. Sue and I took a ten-year old Amy and some other Welsh Juniors to the Under-16 Championships in St Andrews. It was blowing a proverbial gale and the rain started soon after. No player was allowed a caddy and in those days the trolleys were ones you pulled, not the push ones or electric ones of nowadays. Amy was hardly the size of her bag and my abiding memory was of this little mite bent double into the storm hauling her clubs after her. Amy didn’t win that day but she displayed there and then the quality of every champion – stickability. Talent is secondary to staying in the arena. You’ve got to be in it to win it and Sue and I both saw that desire all that time ago.Fast forward to the breathtaking scenery of Switzerland and seventeen years later there’s Amy, once again caddy-less – but this time because of COVID-19. The trolley, however, is electric, thank goodness. Not many flat spots in Switzerland. The opposition was intense, with Swiss left-hander Kim Metraux, the local favourite, reeling off five birdies in a row from the 9th. Amy responded with four birdies of her own in a five-hole spell from the the 10th and Aussie Steph Kiryacou couldn’t make any inroads even with a scorching 65. When Amy tapped in for a final round 64, the waiting and wondering were over. The whole family is absolutely steeped in the game with both Dad Simon and elder sis Kim highly-respected professionals. Mum Gill and middle sister Hayley have both had low single-figure handicaps and I believe the competition for a spot in the family fourball only lessened when Hayley began to concentrate on her nursing career instead. Such a talented family whom I have had fun knowing. Boy, do I hope they are enjoying these celebrations! It’s been a great week for them all……….and a great week for quite a few of the rest of us too.