Many years ago a wise old golf journalist, a man of many talents with much experience in many spheres, told me to steer clear of too many “5-irons to five feet” and look around for more interesting stuff. He was a lot of a maverick if truth be told but was so good that his editors left him largely to his own devices. I’m not sure how good he was at economics but he could add up and would undoubtedly have revelled in this LIV-inspired bust-up: endless grist to the mill. In fact, he’d probably have known about it long before the rest of us.
The announcement of the merger between previously warring parties (Mo has covered the details so far as we know them) took most people by surprise and seems to have moved golf from the fairways to the mainstream, however briefly. At singing the other afternoon, a Guardian-reading friend who hasn’t the remotest interest in golf, asked me what it was all about.
Well, money for a start. And all the things that go with it. Power and control. That’s as good a place as any to start. Follow the money, as usual. Simple. However complicated it might prove to be. These days, if you cover a sport, probably anything, I’d recommend having a sound grasp of business and numbers – preferably big ones – and hardening your heart and putting your most cynical head on whenever you hear the words “for the good of the game”.
And, most alarmingly of all, Donald Trump seems to think it’s a wonderful idea. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
Lots of people, myself included, amazingly enough, have made a living from golf but professional tournament golf is not one of life’s necessities. It’s not even one of golf’s necessities. Many years ago a wise man of golf (not the journalist) said that if all the tour pros were playing on a spit of land in, say, California and there was a massive earthquake and they all fell into the sea and drowned, the rest of golf would observe a minute’s silence and carry on as usual. Harsh, more than a tad insensitive but essentially true.
Down here, at the recreational level of the game of golf (whatever happened to plain old golf?), I’m in danger of being over-golfed. Two holes on Friday (it’s a bit of a long story); 18 on Sunday (greensomes but a full round nonetheless); 18 on Tuesday (4BBB); and 18 on Thursday (the short course at Nailcote Hall Golf Hotel & Country Club). No wonder I’m yawning.
Nailcote is a par 3 course set in delightful countryside in Warwickshire. It’s not for the faint-hearted – there’s a lot of water, tiny greens with interesting slopes and some fiendish pin positions – and my points tally was tiny. If it had been just a little bit tinier, I’d have won a short-game lesson with Rachel, one of our professionals but someone who shall remain nameless had even fewer points than I did. There were some very respectable scores, so congrats to everybody who played, well or otherwise and thanks to lady captain Anne for organising the outing.
It was at Nailcote, at the British Professional Par Three Championship, that I had a wonderful afternoon in the company of Max Faulkner, who won the Open at Portrush in 1951, Bert Gadd, who won the French Open in 1933 and the Irish in 1937 (at Portrush) and Norman Wisdom, who wished he could play golf like Max and Bert. Max just wished he could be as funny as Norman but they were all storytellers par excellence. Magical.Continuing the cultural theme, I went to watch/listen to the CBSO (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) at Symphony Hall the other evening. I hadn’t been for ages and I’d never sat in the choir seats, behind the band. It was brilliant. You’re right in there, nearly part of the orchestra and you can see the conductor’s expressions and encouragements as he and the players put their heart and soul into the performance. You can also see the audience in all its stalled and tiered glory, so it wouldn’t be the place for a secret assignation.
Kazuki Yamada, the new Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the CBSO, was in charge and the old hands with me reckoned that he was nearly as expressive as Mirga, his immediate predecessor, who used to use her eyebrows to great effect, they said. Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2 was the main event but Seong-Jin Cho, from South Korea, who played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4, was stunning. A real treat.Back to golf – proper golf – and I asked two friends, golfers both, if they’d heard of Rose Zhang. No, they said. Well, they and all the rest of us should be hearing about this young American an awful lot from now on because she has just won her first tournament as a professional. To clarify, she has been the best amateur in the world, has just turned professional and won at her first attempt, playing as an inspired – and inspiring – sponsor’s invite.
Rose, who’s from California and attended Stanford (alma mater of Michelle Wie, Tiger Woods and Mhairi McKay among others), won the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club, New Jersey, last Sunday, beating Jennifer Kupcho in a play-off. They should both be on the US Solheim Cup team in Spain this September and we should see them at the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath in August. Another treat in store.