My husband has a significant birthday looming at the end of June and he has recently announced his intention to “stop working” later in the year. Rather alarmed, I waited a few weeks to see if this was likely to be a short-lived intention, but no, plans are being laid and I detect excitement and enthusiasm in the air. I waited to see if there would be any mention of MY “stopping working” but nary a mention of it so far. When I finally broached the subject, he looked at me uncomprehendingly and said, “But you LOVE what you do!”
I can’t deny it, I do. Golf has been a passion for decades and so much a part of my life that I can’t envisage not being involved in at least some small way, so no, no plans to stop at the moment. For many professional athletes, however, deciding to call it a day must be the most difficult decision they ever face.
I was lucky. Back in 1998, numerous back injuries plus a couple of difficult off-course personal problems had me questioning the wisdom of continuing to play on Tour. And then, out of the blue, I was offered a four-year contract to coach the GB&I International squad, which was structured to allow me to continue as Welsh Ladies’ National Coach as well. It was a terrific challenge and opportunity for me and, hard though I found it to believe, I left the Tour I loved with barely a backward glance. No empty gaping void for me – my time was instantly choc-a-bloc with different things golf, but still golf. And, in reality, no big decision to be made – it was largely taken out of my hands.
But as golfers we are so lucky. Even if our skill level doesn’t quite satisfy the bank manager our golfing experience can provide a stepping stone to a host of other professions loosely gathered under the wide-arcing umbrella that is Golf. Consider the following possibilities: teacher; promoter; club administrator; referee; corporate ambassador; broadcaster; after dinner speaker; golf holiday organiser; clubmaker; club professional; course designer; writer; event manager; clothes designer; retailer; agent; product tester; caddy; greenkeeper; the list goes on and on especially here in the UK where we have more golfing bodies, unions, associations and tours than anywhere else, all needing golf-knowledgeable folk to grease the wheels of commerce.
It seems to me that sometimes the more successful you are as a player the more likely it is that you will find life difficult after those heady days of topping money lists and winning majors. The transition isn’t always as straightforward as it seemingly was for Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, both of whom run their own multi-million dollar organisations and foundations.
I know of more than one player who suffered depression post touring days. And then, of course, there are those who simply don’t want to, can’t or won’t let go.
Laura Davies is a case in point – 32 of her 53 years have been spent plying her trade on the world’s tours with four majors and in excess of 70 tournament wins worldwide. She’s fit, healthy, has an undimmed passion for the game and will continue to compete as long as she thinks she can grace the winner’s circle again. Go Laura!
Then there’s Tiger. Another back surgery a couple of weeks ago, the fourth I think, and no prospect of an imminent return to the game he dominated for a decade. So what keeps him from calling it a day? He sure doesn’t need the money. It must be the passion, the love of the game, the highs he gets from competition. Competing at golf is as essential to him as breathing air. Opinions abound as to what he should or shouldn’t do as regards giving up the seemingly unequal struggle to get his body fit for play.
It was Michael Chang, the former tennis player, in an interview with Dottie Pepper, who put it best. “When you spend more time rehabbing than playing the sport you love,” he said, “then it’s time to call it a day.”
I don’t suppose for one minute that you’re listening Tiger? Neither is my husband. You’ll continue and he’ll stop – seems the wrong way round to me!