I read a stat somewhere that said that a huge number of people don’t wear their clothes very much; not that they’re naturists, it’s just that they wear a lot of stuff just two or three times before ditching it. Goodness knows who worked that out and how but they certainly didn’t talk to me. I like to get my cost-per-wearing numbers down to the 0.0001 region and I’m pretty successful at it.
Some less than kind friends might suggest that that’s because I only buy cheap and cheerful, preferably in the sales but that’s not entirely fair. And it’s not difficult for me to prove how old some of my gear is because a lot of it is dated – literally. The little number from Pine Needles has 1996 writ large, which stretches my maths near its limits (in my defence I don’t do much mental arithmetic these days) – and shocks me to the core when I realise how long ago it was. Was I really there?
That’s when Annika Sorenstam won her second US Women’s Open (she won her first as a very raw rookie the year before, helped by a bit of a collapse from Meg Mallon, if memory serves) and if you look very closely, with the aid of your magnifying glass, you’ll see that it was the 51st edition of the championship. This week, back in North Carolina at Pine Needles, a close neighbour of the even more celebrated Pinehurst – the whole area is a little bit of golfing heaven – it’s the 77th championship. Eek. How did that happen?
In 1996, the prize money was $1 million; this year it’s a record $10 million as the USGA (United States Golf Association) do their bit to boost the women’s game, putting their money where their mouth is, with the help of the presenting sponsor Promedica. It can’t do the women’s cause any harm that the USGA’s chief executive officer is Mike Whan, immediate past commissioner of the LPGA (Ladies’ Professional Golf Association).
Of course that sum, large as it is, is put in the halfpenny place by next week’s first LIV Golf Invitational Series event at the Centurion Golf Club, “a superior private golfing facility” (to quote its website) near St Albans. Only 48 players in the field, only 54 holes, no cut, so substantial guaranteed money even for the man finishing last and $4 million for the winner. Sounds exciting…
It’s Saudi money, with all that entails but with the sums on offer it’s hardly surprising that players, particularly those on the way down or tired of the grind or in need of security or desperate for cash or whatever, have signed up: people like Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Charles Schwarzel and Martin Kaymer, to name just a few. Who knows how it’ll all pan out but at the end of the day (aaagh, did I really write that?) does it really matter, does anyone care? Perhaps they’ll pay spectators to go and watch.
Golf, the game, will survive and the poor will still be with us. Why should that be, by the way? Just asking.
Back down at the club level, I played a match the other day and was comprehensively tonked by a young woman who was a 48 handicapper not so long ago. She’s 22 now (playing, I think, though I’ve given up on the overly complicated system that means hardly anyone I know has a clue what their handicap is) and I had to give her EIGHT shots.
Now, given her inexperience and lack of play, my opponent was not guaranteed to win but given her innate ability and the way she played on the day, I did well to keep the match going until the 14th green. She doesn’t have a driver and uses an ancient Cobra baffler (18 degrees of loft), inherited from her father, off the tee.
Our new 2nd is a par 5 for us women, 428 yards, which is certainly a three-shotter for me but Laura belted her baffler miles and launched a 6-iron (an ancient Mitsushiba Stealth inherited from her grandmother) onto the front of the green. The fourball in front (who let us through a few holes later – thank you gentlemen) didn’t notice the ball until they were leaving the green and were obviously puzzled by it. Laura hurried up to apologise and explain that she hadn’t expected to hit it that far. Two excellent putts later, she was 1 up, birdied the next, where she had a shot – and I was anticipating an early lunch.
In September, Laura is off to Liverpool to study anatomy and human biology and I hope she finds time to play a bit of golf on some of the great courses in the area and enjoy the game and the competition.
It’s the Curtis Cup next week, at Merion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania and the best of luck to the GB and I captain Elaine Ratcliffe and her team, who have their work cut out to regain the trophy. The Americans won comfortably enough at Conwy, in north Wales, last year (Covid disrupted the biennial aspect of the competition) and, as usual, will start as favourites.
There’ll be a small contingent of past players travelling from this side of the pond and no doubt there’ll be a tribute to Mary Everard, who died last Saturday after a long illness. I didn’t really know Mary except by reputation – though I once nearly played golf with her and her then husband John Laupheimer at Pinehurst No 2 (thereby hangs a very long tale).
She played in four Curtis Cups, in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1978 and won more than her fair share of matches in a losing cause. She was a member of Hallamshire and quite a player, winning the British Strokeplay in 1970 and the English Championship in 1972 among other titles. She played in the Vagliano Trophy, the Commonwealth Tournament, the Espirito Santo and several European Team Championships. She deserves to be remembered.
It’s the Memorial Tournament this week, at Muirfield Village, Jack’s place in Ohio and Dai should still be there, his plaque hanging on the wall in the press/media centre, whatever it’s called these days.