As I write this [before Storm Brendan got to work – ed.] the sun is streaming through the window as this unseasonal mild weather continues. The resultant hotbed of germs and endless weeks of a bad throat and racking coughing has left me feeling more than a little washed out and my normal New Year get-up-and-go has, well, got up and gone. Feeling a little under the weather is a great conscience-salver for someone like me who feels guilty at lazing about and doing very little. Thankfully, the golf world, for me, is endlessly fascinating and I’ve filled the hours with catching up on all things golfy, including compiling a bit of a personal wish list for golf in 2020. For what it’s worth, here it is – and in no particular order.
1 Rory to win at Augusta.
Only five players have won all four majors, thus completing what has become known as the career grand slam. They are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. It’s nine years since Rory blew a four-shot lead at the Masters (the only major currently absent from his CV), imploding in spectacular fashion on what many consider to be a course that is tailor-made for his game. This will be Rory’s sixth attempt at annexing this reluctant major to his haul. Imagine that 18th green at Augusta were this most personable of Irishmen finally to conquer his Everest! There’s more than a degree of self-interest in this item on my wish list as I will, once again, be on Augusta’s green and pleasant grounds in April. So, a green jacket for Rors in 2020 with me having a front row commentary position – oh, yes please!
2 A healthy and prosperous Ladies’ European Tour.
Towards the end of last year the LPGA (Ladies’ Professional Golf Association) and the LET (Ladies’ European Tour) formed an alliance to drive women’s professional golf with the principal goal of increasing playing opportunities in Europe. This good news has been further supplemented by the latest announcement that the R&A, as well as the men’s European Tour, have committed to helping this newly formed joint venture. The R&A have long been supporters of the women’s game in Europe, quietly funding the tour through some very lean times. This, however, is different. We now have several of the game’s major bodies committing to opening doors to influential contacts with a view to increasing prize funds, television exposure and opportunities for women and girls in golf in Europe. This news gladdens my heart and Marta Dotti, the chair of the LET, has steered an admirable course to get this far. Already highly regarded in the game for her playing, coaching and administrative roles at the highest level, Marta is facing arguably her greatest golfing challenge yet. I feel more optimistic about the future of the women’s game in Europe than I have for decades. Go Marta!
3 A Curtis Cup victory for GB&I over the USA at Conwy in June.The bad news is the Americans have won nine out of the last eleven contests. The good news is that GB&I have triumphed the last two times they have hosted the event and the stunning links at Conwy, a very un-American layout, should be the perfect backdrop for the home team for the contest. Never underestimate your opponents but it’s unlikely too many of the visitors will be familiar with the type of golf required by this gem of a course. For anyone fortunate enough to have played Curtis Cup there is always the opportunity to rekindle friendships that were made eons ago. It’s a lovely feeling to have a connection with so many of the greats of the game and to feel part of a very special club. I’ll be there cheering from the sidelines.
4 Repair pitchmarks.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to hit a green with a shot good enough to make a pitchmark, please repair it and mend an extra one as well. It really does make a huge difference to the course – the greenkeping staff will love you – and it is a courtesy we should all be extending to each other.
5 Reduce maximum number of clubs to 10.
It’ll make you a better player as you will have to learn how to play half- and three-quarter shots and you should be quicker – fewer options in the club selection department. A win-win.
6 Ban golf carts/buggies.
Unless you have a medical condition that means you cannot play without a cart, get out and walk. I don’t care that your golf facility wants cart revenue. See the bigger picture here. Encourage people to walk and get fitter – they’ll live longer, be members for longer and spend more in the club and the pro’s shop. This is not a country that suffers from intolerably high summer temperatures so it isn’t essential to have a freezer chest of your favourite beverage along for the duration of your game. And carts make the pace of play drop like a stone. An additional bonus is that without carts there is no need for cart paths, which are a blight on the golfing landscape. Dai Davies, my late brother-in-law and golf correspondent of The Guardian, once described cart paths as the “condoms of golf”. In his opinion neither increased the pleasure of the activity involved!
Play well in 2020. You don’t have to be as fit or as fierce or as talented as Leona Maguire (who’s got her game face on in the featured pic), just get out there and enjoy the game.