Anyone who has played golf for any length of time will be all too familiar with those two little words – if only. If only I hadn’t three-putted the last, I’d have got my handicap down……If only she hadn’t holed that tramliner on the 9th, I’m sure I could have won; and so it goes on. Well, this week it’s the same story.
If only we hadn’t this global pandemic, we’d all be at Conwy this week for the 41st playing of the Curtis Cup, the biennial match between the best female amateurs from Great Britain & Ireland and the United States of America. Instead, we are, almost all of us, still at home observing the rules and regulations and hoping to get the odd few holes in. My heart goes out to the host club, Conwy, who were working up to showcasing their wonderful course and hospitality to the visiting Americans as well as to the thousands of home spectators.
And, of course, the players themselves are impacted. As someone who only managed to make one team (as opposed to nine or eleven like some of my greedy pals, namely Mary McKenna and Carol Semple!) I am very aware of how precious that one cap is. Undoubtedly, some of the players who would have made the 2020 team will not make the 2021 one. And, of course, it works the other way as well – there will be some who wouldn’t have been at Conwy this week but may well be the stars next year. Life is full of if onlys – it’s all sliding doors, isn’t it?To date I have attended seven Curtis Cups in various guises – first as a spectator; then player; coach; coach; spectator; broadcaster; and broadcaster. The odd thing is that at each edition I had no desire whatsoever to be there in anything other than the capacity I was then occupying. The opportunity to experience this wonderful international sporting contest from so many differing angles is something I’ve relished and cherished. I realise it’s not an opportunity given to many and certainly when you have the opportunity actually to play in the match or captain a team, you become a member of a select group and the bonds are strong.
I was out in the garden the other day doing a bit of clearing (I hesitate to call it gardening) and I was pursuing my new-found, lockdown hobby of listening to golf podcasts.Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to hear some wonderful stuff from the great and the good of Irish golf (find them on ‘Shane O On The Radio’ and 3 Off The Tee podcasts), in particular five of Ireland’s greatest golfing ambassadors, all of them steeped in the Curtis Cup. Leona Maguire, Maria Dunne, Ita Butler, Ada O’Sullivan and Claire Coughlan, (the last three all good Munster women – even Ita, I learned, despite playing for Leinster for years) have all graced the Curtis Cup stage and left a significant mark.
How wonderful it was to listen to these inspiring, talented, modest, articulate women talking about their backgrounds, their early days, their accomplishments, their love for the game and their place in it. No wonder Ireland as a country punches miles and miles above its weight in terms of global golf and in Leona it looks as if we may well have our first female professional to win multiple times on the world stage. Fingers crossed.
Changing tack now and turning back to the real golf that keeps the world turning – no, not the resumption of the PGA Tour but the continuation of club golf and the baby steps back to normality. As yet, we are not allowed any competitions but at Delamere Forest, my club, we can now play a one-ball, two-ball, three-ball or four-ball. I wondered how this would work as regards the flow and speed of play but the four-balls have all been brilliant at instantly allowing folk through and to date there hasn’t seemed to be a need to add more rules to the time sheet. It’s great to be back out on the course again and meeting friends but we all miss the clubhouse socialising and chat. On the positive side it now takes no time to play 18 holes and get back home – just like the old days! So much time saved and nowhere to go!
At last we have a bit of tournament golf to look at on the telly. My own commentary schedule was blown out of the water this year with the cancellation or postponement of every single one of the men’s majors and none of my expected four trips to the States this year has transpired so far, and may not either. Who can tell? The PGA, for so many years the last on the major schedule and elevated last year to second on the list, has now vaulted in to first spot and is currently scheduled for August 6th at Harding Park in San Francisico. The US Open at Winged Foot is in the diary for September 17-20, the week before the Ryder Cup which still occupies its original slot. (Please, please don’t play the RC without spectators!)
Finally, the Masters is set to round out everything with a November 12-15 date. I think the majors could get away without spectators, if necessary, and certainly all eyes will be on the next four or five weeks Stateside. Inevitably lessons will need to be learned as regards all the new untried and untested protocols being introduced with safety the top priority for all. It’s a monumental logistical exercise for those concerned and flexibility is the new watchword.
And if three majors are, indeed, completed and one player happens to carry off all three titles, what will we call that achievement? A 20 Slam? A Covid Slam? Said player might well end up telling his grandchildren that if only the Open had been played in 2020, he could have made history.
Ah, there it is again…..if only.