It’s over three months since I was up at the golf club. I can hardly believe it but that’s the length of time it’s been since I caught Covid and my life changed. A golf club is not just a place for playing golf. It’s a place for meeting up with friends, as well as new people, and for many it’s a social hub. I miss it.
The club was where, in pre-pandemic days, I bumped into my friend Karl Morris, the eminent sports psychologist, who was just coming off the course with one of his stable of touring professionals. The two of them had been doing a bit of work on the golf course, working on the six inches between the ears.
This was the first time I had met Ryan Fox (above, with trophy), the amiable Kiwi, son of Grant of All Blacks fame. Now, there’s a potential mental albatross if ever there was one! Imagine always being referred to as so-and-so’s son, daughter, parent, sister, whatever. Not a great start, surely, for a professional sportsperson who is constantly striving to build a bank of confidence and maintain it in the face of all odds?
We exchanged a few pleasantries and went our separate ways but that small interaction was enough for me to take a proprietorial interest in Fox and his performance out in Ras Al Khaimah last weekend. A classy 65 in the third round, which the New Zealander modestly described as a performance in which “everything worked well”, furnished him with a six-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round. How would his three years of work with Karl hold up through a long night, followed by a long morning, followed by a long round of golf?
His lead was down to three by the turn and down to two with seven holes to play and as one of the fastest players on the tour he had to deal with having a really deliberate (in other words, slow) player in his group and a group ahead that slowed to a snail’s pace because of the strong breezes and the small matter of having a title, and much dosh, on the line. Three years removed from his last win, this was a huge mental test for Fox.
Boy, did he rise to the challenge! Birdies at the 12th, the hardest hole on the course and the 13th restored his lead to four which he held until he mounted the tee at the last. A final birdie saw him win by five, which sounds a lot more comfortable than it was. The chasing pack of eighteen players within three shots of each other meant there was never a moment’s relaxation. How often do we see a lone bod out in front sucked in to the pack by a relentless peleton? Not this time, I’m glad to say, and it’ll be a joyous Ryan who flies back to New Zealand to ten days of hotel quarantine before joining his wife and fourteen-month old toddler.This was Fox’s sixth professional win and the first wire-to-wire winner for the DP World Tour since Lucas Herbert won last year’s Irish Open. It was a performance of immense composure despite admitting to not sleeping well and then pacing around so much on all the greens and tees that he reckoned he’d walked twice as far as anyone else. Well done Ryan and well done Karl.
Perhaps Ryan will be looking for a reading list to help him get through his quarantine stint. That’s exactly what one of my Welsh friends, Janet Doleman, is seeking. Prolonged tendon trouble is leading to an operation and another twelve weeks minimum out of action. Meanwhile, a brand new set of Mizunos is resting unmolested upstairs. Ah well, at least they’re not learning any bad habits at the moment.
Janet was asking me about some of my favourite golf reads so I thought I’d list a few to help some of you while away the hours. First up, ANY book by John Feinstein. Two of my favourites are “A Good Walk Spoiled” and “Tales from Q School”. These give a great insight into the behind the scenes stuff of tournament life and I found them both thoroughly enjoyable. Another is “Who’s Your Caddy?” by Rick Reilly and finally, “Who’s that with Charlie?” by Charles S Mechem Jr. Charlie was the much-loved commissioner of the LPGA for a five-year stretch at the beginning of the 1990s and reading his book is akin to spending a wonderful evening with a friend and consummate storyteller.
If it’s help with your game that you seek while in your armchair, look no further than any of Karl Morris’ books or those by Vision54 founders Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson. You won’t go wrong with a Bob Rotella book either. They are mostly slim volumes, easily digestible and packed full of the secrets the best in the sport strive to incorporate into their own games. They are not technical but full of common sense advice.
Happy reading to all, but especially to fellow golfers confined to barracks at the moment for a variety of reasons.