Cast your mind back to the days when we were working our way out of lockdown and golf was allowed again. One player at Bramhall Golf Club signed up for the 06.30 tee time – the first slot – each day. It was Bronte Law, Solheim Cup star and England’s and Cheshire’s finest, who plays mostly in the States and recorded her maiden win on the LPGA in that glorious season of 2019.
Always a grafter, Bronte was working on a radical change to the action that had made her the darling of the Solheim Cup crowds at Gleneagles. Not for her any kind of break from the grind of a tour player’s life. Rather she seized the opportunity to investigate a stronger, more durable movement that would take pressure off her back and potentially afford her some semblance of longevity in the game.
It was a risk. Not all swing changes are successful, many players finding themselves left floundering and falling between the twin stools of the old swing versus the new. Frequently the resulting hybrid is neither use nor ornament.
It’s not easy being a professional athlete. It’s relentless hard work with zero guarantee of success and you are frequently weighted down with copious amounts of expectation – your own and other peoples’. I’m not sure which is the more difficult to deal with. Of course, we, the public and the armchair golfers don’t see any of that. We don’t live in a haze of dissatisfaction because we can’t fight our way back to where we once were. We don’t see the hours in the gym, the attention to diet and the lack of a social life. We only see the players on our TV screens who are near or at the top of the leaderboards and who have scaled the peaks, usually having ridden out lots of troughs.At last week’s 54-hole Dubai Moonlight Classic Bronte was three behind the effervescent and colourful Mexican Maria Fassi going into the final round. In fact, there were 19 players within six shots after round two and with a shotgun start it was hard to keep track of where the winner might come from under the floodlights. Fassi did very little wrong, carding a final round 68 but 26-year old Law was six under for the last eight holes, coming from next to nowhere to shoot 64 and claim her first Ladies’ European Tour win. That’s all the validation a player needs in order to know they made the right decision to change their swing. Bronte, looking very trim and honed, had played seven weeks in a row, something her body wouldn’t have allowed her to do before. She looks to be back where she wants to be in the game, contending for titles and becoming part of Solheim Cup conversations again.
I couldn’t be more delighted. It almost makes it worth having being on the end of some of the withering looks only a 15-year old can give you. These usually occurred at Cheshire county coaching when she considered I’d asked her to do something she thought particularly stupid! Ah the memories – and she was probably right!
Golf, as many of us are aware, seems to move at a glacial pace, both on and off the course. There is change afoot, however, that is going to impact the elite amateur game in a massive way and it’s set to come in to force in the New Year. The amateur status rules are being relaxed to allow amateurs to earn money from endorsements, sponsorships and the like as well as being able to accept up to £700 in prize money.
Not before time, I say. To compete at elite amateur level requires full-time participation in all the top events yet up until now these players have not been allowed to make any money from their activities. The game changer took place earlier this year in American college golf when restrictions were lifted regarding use of a player’s name, image or likeness (NIL). College players can, and are, signing with agents while still amateur and deals with equipment companies, for example, can now be more than simply the provision of free gear. A hefty endorsement fee can now accompany the deal.Obviously, this rule is only relevant to a minute percentage of those who play the game but it is important for another reason. Hopefully, the lemming-like leap into the pro ranks because a player can’t afford to remain amateur will cease. Too many wonderfully talented people have been lost to the game permanently because their transition to the paid ranks has ultimately led to the graveyard of their dreams. It’s important that in the future the choice of turning pro or ceasing to play because of lack of funds is something that won’t need to be considered. It also means we can keep scores of talented players in the game at amateur level. They’ll be our future administrators, our Walker and Curtis Cup captains and will have so much to offer the game at club level as well. It seems like a win-win to me on several levels.
Talking of club golf, I spotted this on Radio 5 Live’s golf correspondent Iain Carter’s twitter feed. What do you think? A good idea or not?