The Scots are on my mind – for lots of reasons. We (Ireland, that is) managed to beat them in the rugby last weekend, which cheered us up no end having been very disappointing against England. And then last Sunday there was David Law winning the ISPS Handa Vic Open, Down Under, at 13th Beach Golf Club, near Melbourne – his first ever European Tour win early in his rookie season.
I first became aware of David Law round about 2010. He was an obvious talent and had at that stage already won the Scottish Boys and was on his way to annexing a second Scottish Championship. And then came a decidedly big bump in what had, to that point, been quite a smooth road. He was overlooked for the 2011 Walker Cup – and to rub salt into the wound it was to be played at Royal Aberdeen. It was a controversial admission, seemingly vindicated when GB&I managed to beat their American counterparts by 14 matches to 12. That must have rubbed more salt into the wound. That US side was dripping with talent, too, – Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein, Harris English and Russell Henley were all showcasing their skills – to no avail.David Law was no part of that immense victory, but by this stage he had already been under the wing of Paul Lawrie, former Open champion and twice a Ryder Cup player, for a number of years. That support was crucial, as it would be to any young player. Having Lawrie as a mentor with his vast experience on tap is a dream come true for all promising young Scots players and it is difficult to think of any other Scottish player who has singlehandedly given so much back to the game in his home country.
Lawrie has achieved amazing things in his playing career, my own personal favourite being his performance in the 2012 Ryder Cup singles when he beat Brandt Snedeker 5 and 4 with the best figures of the day. But he is arguably on track to achieving even greater things with his Paul Lawrie Foundation, providing support to legions of young Scottish boys and girls coming through the ranks. It’s his own availability and accessibility to the players that means so much and makes the difference.But back to David Law. With Lawrie’s help he managed to put aside that Walker Cup rebuff and win a professional event, the prestigious Northern Open on the Scottish circuit, while still an amateur, and five years ago he made his way on to the Challenge Tour. According to Law you need to finish in the top 20 or thereabouts in the end of season rankings to be able to make a living. His best end of season ranking in his first four years was 60th. That took him up to the end of 2017, a tragic year in which he and his partner (now fiancee) Natasha suffered the loss of a stillborn son. Life wasn’t good and it’s probably fair to say that on the golf side of things it was all looking a little dicey. Law admitted that he knew 2018 was always going to be a pivotal year – if things didn’t go well he was going to get a job over the winter and take stock.
And then came the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts at Aviemore. Admittedly it’s not a title to trip off the tongue with ease, but it’s one I’m sure that David Law will remember forever more. His first Challenge Tour victory propelled him to 14th spot in the end of year rankings and with that he bagged one of the 15 automatic cards on offer for the European Tour. Life changing and the fulfillment of part one of a boyhood dream.These are early days for the 27-year old Scot playing amongst the big boys. So far he has recorded two made cuts, two missed cuts and a victory. Apart from the welcome injection into the bank account, that victory secures him playing privileges for the next two years – job security, in other words, and it’s also the fulfillment of part two of that boyhood dream. He has now moved on to play his next event in Perth (the Aussie version) at the glorious Lake Karrinyup, a course where Gill Stewart, one of my Scottish fellow holiday makers and I represented Great Britain in the then Commonwealth Tournament back in the day. In fact, I believe there is a picture of that GB team still adorning the clubhouse walls somewhere!
I couldn’t be happier for David Law and Scottish golf – what a boost for them all, and there is some amazing talent in the wings. Expect more Scottish success in the next wee while.
Running concurrently with the men’s tournament was a women’s event for the same money. Great stuff – and an obvious way forward in the game for the women. France’s Celine Boutier won and this, her inaugural LPGA victory, will provide a similar springboard to her career as Law has received in his.There are a couple of things, however, that have made me EXTREMELY CROSS! One, the Ladies’ European Tour who have done the legwork for so long down in Oz, were unceremoniously superseded and elbowed out by the much more affluent LPGA, meaning the opportunities for LET members shrank enormously. And then, despite all our protestations that we haven’t got equal opportunities with the guys, the LPGA players don’t turn up!! Divot of the century to the LPGA.
See the bigger picture at least once in a while, please.
Meanwhile, let’s go Scotland!
There’s been an awful lot going on recently in the world of golf – so much so that it’s difficult to know where to start this week’s musings.
Let’s start with Mel Reid, one of England’s best female golfers, who relocated recently from Derby to Florida in a bid to continue her quest to be the best she can be. Vivacious, hard-working and veteran of three Solheim Cup matches, Mel is not afraid to speak her mind and that is exactly what she did in an interview with the Independent’s Tom Kershaw. When asked about inequality in golf her response was “I think it’s getting worse.”
She then cited an incident from July 2018 when former world No 1 Inbee Park, who’s won seven major championships and an Olympic gold medal, called up a manufacturer to request a replacement 3-wood. The response? “We don’t support women’s golf.”
That’s beyond shocking.Mel chose not to name and shame the company, probably fearing jeopardising any deals some of the women players may have managed to negotiate with the big multi-nationals. That’s a real pity. This company should be named and shamed and when I replace my aging set of clubs this year I certainly do not wish to inadvertently support a company that could utter such a crass statement. When I find out the culprit, I shall certainly name them in this blog; and if that doesn’t terrify them, it should…….!!
I have felt for a while that the equality movement in golf is gathering pace from the ground up but that from the top down it is found woefully wanting. Gary Player, ever creative and provocative, has suggested in an interview with the Ladies’ European Tour that he would like to see the male professionals donate “a lousy 1%” of their winnings to women’s golf for the general good health of the game.
Nice idea, Gary, but can you really see it happening? Mind you, that would mean that Adam Scott and Justin Rose, having just surpassed the $50 million dollar mark in their PGATOUR earnings alone, would jointly contribute $1 million to the women’s game. Hmmm, hope this latest Player idea doesn’t take decades to catch on like his fitness craziness did. But then, Gary always was ahead of his time.We are now into February and the new FFS Rules of Golf (faster, fairer, simpler, of course) are in the news again. Last week Haotong Li of China was penalised two shots because his caddy was deemed to have been standing behind him as he began to line up his putt on the final green. He tumbled down the leaderboard to 12th spot. This week Denny McCarthy was penalised in Phoenix under the same rule but the penalty was rescinded after endless scrutiny of the video action by officials. I thought that INTENT was a big thing in this game of ours? In neither case was there the slightest intent to gain an advantage. Slightly ironic, isn’t it that a rule change designed predominantly to stop female pros from using their caddies to help their alignment has caused mayhem on the men’s tours and slowed play down even further as a result? The USGA and R&A have acknowledged the flaws in the interpretation and implementation of the rule and have been swift to issue further clarification. I do wonder, however, just how long they will turn a blind eye to the pace of play rules – or does it not count when Bryson DeChambeau takes well over a minute on three different shots when coming down the stretch to win in Dubai?
On a final note, huge congratulations to a longtime friend of mine, Marta Figueras Dotti, about whom I have penned a few words on other occasions. Marta, from Madrid, is the chairman of the Ladies’ European Tour and has been honoured with the gold medal by the Madrid Golf Association as they celebrate their 50th year. At the celebration dinner she was introduced to the great and the good of golf in Spain as “the first Spanish player to compete on the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA, with victories on both tours, who led and inspired all the Spanish players that are now in competition and who is now chariman of the Ladies European Tour.” In reality, to list Marta’s achievements in the global game would take an entire blog of its own but her influence and inspiration have touched many and this honour is thoroughly deserved.
It also means that we can share a lovely, celebratory bottle of Rioja when next we meet.
These old handbooks from the early days of the Ladies’ European Tour evoke so many memories, most of them overwhelmingly good, and I’m happy to say I’m still in touch with lots of the folk chronicled within their covers.
I had an email earlier this week from one such player who was on tour with me back in the dim, distant past. Jo Rumsey, from Southend-on-Sea, was one of a band of players who travelled around Europe, from tournament to tournament, in a caravan, sharing with Angie Bell, the multi-talented solver of all problems, who caddied for me for several years. Others eschewing the slightly dodgy accommodation we were faced with in those days included Karyn Dallas, now a revered coach in Scotland, and her husband, and South Africa’s own Alison Sheard, a former winner of the Women’s British Open. Those of us who stayed in an assortment of hotels and guest houses rather uninspiringly called these fellow travellers of ours the Caravan Club, or CC for short.
But I digress. Rumsey, as we call her, had just enjoyed a game of golf in New Zealand with Aine McCoy, from Ballycastle, who’d grown up playing with Patricia and me and the hordes of other juniors nurtured by Aine’s mother Nora and the formidable group of organisers at Royal Portrush. (Have I mentioned that Portrush will be hosting the Open this year…….??!!!) Anyway, it served as a lovely reminder of how the inter-connecting strands of golf reach out and join people who have never previously met. It’s one of the things I love about our game.
Rumsey finished her email with a heartfelt, “Terribly sad news about Debbie Dowling.”
This is the news that has rocked the golfing world of a certain era. Patricia asked me last week if I would write about Debbie but I was too upset and couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s hard to come to terms with a friend dying from a massive bleed on the brain at the age of 57. It matters not a jot that we hadn’t seen each other for 20-plus years. We shared a very special couple of decades or more in the close world of amateur golf and then professional sorties in the early days of the Ladies’ European Tour.
I’m not hot on the detail but Debbie won at least six times in Europe and certainly recorded a minimum of a couple of victories out in Asia. This is pretty remarkable stuff for an incredibly shy person, who never, ever, ever wanted to be the centre of attention. I read a post on Facebook from Vanessa Marvin, another friend from that era, who told the story of Debbie lining her up to do her victory speeches in case she won!
I wonder if Debbie ever knew she was preceding the great Annika Sorenstam, who used to throw winning Swedish squad training tournaments in order to avoid the dreaded victory speech. Once coach Pia Nilsson clocked this she made the top two, and sometimes three, speak, so Annika gave up that trick. She was too talented to avoid a podium finish altogether so decided she might as well win if she was going to have to speak anyway.
Debbie, also, was too talented to avoid winning but she never did grow to enjoy the victory speeches. She did come into her own, however, in the victory celebrations amongst her friends, who numbered players and caddies equally. She was such a talented player, never quite regarding her own game as highly as her peers did. She was funny, generous and very, very kind in her usual, understated and self-effacing way and would probably be amazed at the outpouring of grief at the news of her death.
She was also the fastest player I’ve ever played with. We used to call her Debbie ‘Whoosh’ Dowling, which then became shortened to Debbie Whoosh. This is because she rarely gave the starter on the first tee time to get her full name out. The “whoosh” represented her contact with the ball and “Dowling” would be voiced only after the ball was well on its way down the first fairway. Even though the starters became familiar with her routine she nearly always beat them to the ball, so to speak.
So, for me, Debbie was the first significant “Whoosh/Swoosh” in the game – long before a well-known brand, much reviled by Patricia. In the mid-1990s this company offered Laura Davies, still in her pomp, a derisory $2500 to wear their shoes. Bearing in mind they had just paid one Tiger Woods around $40 million, Patricia asked was Laura’s offer per shoe, per round. We all know the answer to that and not a single article from that particular brand has ever been or will ever be purchased by Mrs Patricia Davies. There’s solidarity with a namesake for you!When looking forward to the future does sometimes seem gloomy after a loss, it can help to look back and reminisce and cherish the good times. But, looking forward in general golfing terms, it’d be great if today’s players would take a leaf out of Debbie’s book re pace of play. If only Bryson ‘I’ve not got enough info yet’ DeChambeau were a little more like our pal Debbie Whoosh, it would inject the game with a little more vitality and spark – watchwords for Debbie herself.