It’s at times like this, with golf in a bit of disarray and so much macho posturing and quite a bit of yah-boo sucksing that I’m glad I’m not in charge of anything; just taking time to smell the roses – they’re blooming marvellously this year.
Whenever I was at a golf tournament, I was always delighted that I had nothing whatsoever to do with running the event. For instance, if there was a thunderstorm pending, all I had to do was leg it back to the press room – although I seem to remember being evacuated from a tent somewhere, so severe was the weather. Contrary to popular belief we members of the AGW did sometimes venture outside to have a look at the golf, especially in the days when there was no tee-to-green television coverage or, heavens, no coverage at all. Mobile phones? Internet? Live streaming? Not invented. We’d only just moved beyond the carrier pigeon stage really.
Organising things has never been my bag, let alone anything remotely approaching a forte. Of course, I’ve never been slow to give my opinion on how things should be done but those who know me even a little bit don’t take a blind bit of notice. Friends who come for dinner are pleasantly surprised if they find the table at all, let alone laid. There’s usually food in the house and everybody gets fed eventually but I was never asked to do Christmas dinner again after my one effort kept us scavenging for nibbles until it was nearly Boxing Day.
So, why on earth would anybody want to run a golf tour? Or a governing body? Ah well, there seem to be plenty of bods out there keen to be in charge, making the decisions that the rest of us can praise or criticise to our heart’s content, secure in the knowledge that when it comes to golf, all we have to do is grab the clubs and head out onto the course. If the score is good, brill; if it’s not so good, we can smell the roses or head for the bar or the practice ground, as the mood takes us.
At the moment, when it comes to pitching or chipping, I’m in the middle of an unmentionable streak, struck by the J Arthur Ranks at the most inopportune times. It’s very unnerving and can happen anywhere: in bunkers; thick rough; wispy rough; from the fairway. Not good for the nerves or the score. At least on my last outing, before the lurgy stirred itself, I started par, par, par (who is this person?) and improved my eclectic score no end. My playing partners also had their moments and we were far from disgraced in the Centenary Comp, a dreaded medal.
Not one of us was disqualified either because we all managed the potentially fraught task of filling in every box correctly: name; date – no mean feat given the mad whirl of our lives; handicap index; course handicap; playing handicap. Really, who devised this bloody awful system? What happened to simplification? Numbers nerds rule OK.
What’s your handicap used to be a simple question to answer. Now? It’s as Gallic a shrug as an Irish person can muster, eyebrows up, eyes wide, hands out in a gesture of total confusion. Qui sait? Let me check my phone.
Before I run out of space (and steam) many congratulations to Beth Coulter, of Kirkistown Castle, who won the AIG Irish Women’s Close at Grange, beating Sara Byrne, of Douglas, by 6 and 5 in the final. Byrne won the title in 2018 and Coulter lost in the final last year, so she’d certainly have been Dad’s choice this year – that was his modus operandi: check out who’d been runner-up the previous time and back them!I’m hoping, as ever, that Rory McIlroy will be holding up another major trophy come Sunday but even though he’s playing well and won a properly thrilling Canadian Open in front of thousands of cheering Canucks last Sunday, the omens are not good, not least because he’s my Pick Your Pro choice this week. Also, apparently, no one has ever won the Canadian and the US Opens in the same year.
This week’s US Open, the 122nd (LIV has a bit of a way to go to match that), started at The Country Club at Brookline, Massachusetts, yesterday and whoever wins, the odds are that they’ll have to do it in a play-off, as every champion at Brookline has. In 1913, Francis Ouimet, a local amateur, put golf on the map in America by beating Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, two world-famous, storied Brits; in 1963, Julius Boros beat Arnold Palmer and Jackie Cupit; and in 1988, Curtis Strange defeated Nick Faldo.
Prepare for nerves to be shredded.
Watching the cricket earlier in the week, the thrilling last day of England against New Zealand at a packed Trent Bridge, enthralled by Johnny Bairstow’s mesmerising match-winning century, I had what I think is a cracking idea. The spectators at Trent Bridge were let in for free and it occurred to me that Greg Norman and his Saudis, in their quest for real innovation, with money no object, should go that step further and pay people to come in and watch.
We fans have been taken for granted and, indeed, ripped off for far too long: it’s time to show us the money too. That would test our principles to the limit, if nothing else.