We all know the old adage “beware the injured or sick golfer” but what about “beware the angry golfer?” The award-winning European Tour social media content team released a new video last week called “Angry Golfers”. It’s a supposed support group for members of the tour struggling with anger issues and is hosted by Tommy Fleetwood. Members attending the session are Henrik Stenson, Eddie Pepperell, Matt Wallace, Ian Poulter and new recruit Tyrrell Hatton. If you haven’t seen it yet go to the tour website and have a look. You’ll find it under “News” and then “Videos.” It’s hilarious and quite brilliant.Filmed at the start of the week in Abu Dhabi it was perfect timing for Hatton, who recorded his sixth European Tour win and his fourth Rolex Series victory, earning a little more than a cool million euros, enough to calm the soul of any angry person. And calm is exactly what he was out on the course, holing a nasty five footer on the third to avoid going three behind Rory McIlroy. From that point on he was near flawless, shooting 66 and winning by four from Aussie Jason Scrivener, another player now benefitting from undergoing the rigours of working with performance guru Dave Aldred.
If you have played this game for any length of time at all, you’ve probably had a spell where anger has got the better of you. I remember being out on the course at Portstewart for nine holes with Dad. I was about 12 years old and things weren’t going my way so I worked myself up into a rage and tossed a club. Well, that was it. Dad came over to me and spoke to me in a very level, and serious, voice and said if I ever did that again he would walk straight in. I knew he would – empty threats were not his style – and I knew that I would be humiliated because I felt everyone else on the course would know exactly why Dad wasn’t finishing his golf – because of his brat of a daughter! I never threw another club and learning to control my anger certainly helped my game because, for most of us, performance usually goes south when extreme emotion comes in to play.
There are a few players, of course, who can harness their anger and turn it into a positive and actually improve their game. One pal of mine, Linda Bayman, was such a player. A late-blooming Curtis Cup player and exemplary ball-striker, Linda had scant time for her own shortcomings on the golf course. She and I partnered each other for many happy years in the famous but alas now defunct Avia Foursomes. I was always content when Linda’s patience with her own performance snapped because she would then unleash a series of phenomenally pure, laser-like woods and irons that even she could find no fault with. I simply had to hang on for the ride, keep out of her way and let her work her magic. What a privilege.
Trish Johnson was another prone to throwing the odd hissy fit, particularly as a junior. Speaking now as a coach, I don’t really mind kids losing their rags. It’s simply their passion for the game coming through and they are, at that stage, just not emotionally mature enough to know how to handle or channel their emotions to their advantage. Those are all skills that can be learned from the right people and it’s pointless outraged club members coming down on the youngsters without taking steps to help them work their way through this patch by introducing them to professionals who can help. Trish certainly worked her way through the red mist to a scintillating career of 27 worldwide victories and eight Solheim Cup appearances.Another explosive character on the course was Helen Alfredsson, one of Sweden’s best. A major winner and the current holder of two senior majors, it wasn’t difficult to know whereabouts on the course the ever-vocal Alfie was. Betsy King, who kept her own emotions under wraps, once suggested Alfie try to rein it in a little and exert a little more control over her colourful language on the course. Ever willing, Alfie gave it a go, but, just like a pressure cooker, she discovered that her performance suffered without her safety valve of brief outbursts of dissatisfaction. She soon gave that experiment up – and went back to winning ways. Rather like Tiger she learned the benefit of a quick burst of release and then it was down to business again with no carrying over of any negativity. She found her own way to her best performances. As an on-course broadcaster I’ve been on the receiving end of a few mouthfuls from prickly players who don’t like where I’m standing or who are just plain looking for someone to blame for their poor play. I was certainly always wary when assigned to a Darren Clarke or Colin Montgomerie group. Darren had a spell when he seemed to be thinning a couple of chips or pitches each round and I soon learned that the opposite side of the green from him was not the place to be. The ball would come whistling across like an exocet missile, closely followed by Darren himself who had the ability to quell you with a look. Undoubtedly his expression is much more benign at the moment having just notched his second consecutive win on the Champions Tour. Go Darren!
Monty was always a challenge too. I remember one year being assigned to the group behind him at the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. I was down near the landing area of the tee shots on the par 5 3rd hole and when all of my group had played I ducked out from under the ropes to go and get the yardages for the second shots. Next thing I hear the galleries calling over to me and shouting my name. I look over and dozens of spectators start gesticulating towards the green which was over 270 yards away. The pin was central, only six yards on and Monty was twelve feet behind the flag, arms akimbo and blood boiling. I knew from his trademark, teapot pose that I was putting him off as I moved from one ball to the other in the fairway. He was not happy – even less so when he missed the putt. I made sure I kept clear for the next few holes!I think we all have the capacity to be angry golfers but the smart players ensure their performance is enhanced rather than damaged. Hmm, now where do I sign up for that support group?