You know, just for once, I thought I ‘d start with a bit of golf. There was a picture that caught my eye, not least because it showed that even serial winners and serious men in jackets and ties are human too. And it was an object lesson to all those involved in designing trophies: whatever you do make sure the bits all hold together.
Steven Alker, a New Zealander who is having his golfing year of years on the PGA Tour Champions (I think that’s its current title), won the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, his fourth victory of the season, at the Country Club of Virginia and probably relaxed and lost his concentration as he took possession of the trophy – only to see it fall apart! The picture says it all.Fortunately no harm was done as the glass trophy hit the grass and survived intact and Alker was able to raise it – cautiously, with a very firm grip – to applause and relieved laughter.
He’d needed birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th to put clear green fairway between himself and the rest and admitted: “It was kind of a dogfight down there at the end. I was trying not to look at the leaderboard because there’s so many guys just trying to win this golf tournament.”
Alker’s late flourish saw him finish one shot ahead of K.J. Choi and two ahead of Padraig Harrington, Jerry Kelly and Doug Barron. Ernie Els and Brian Gay were a shot further behind. A little further down came Rocco Mediate, Brett Quigley, Rod Pampling, Jim Furyk, Stephen Ames, Bernhard Langer and Paul Broadhurt, to mention just a few blasts from the past. I just love it that they are still swinging, still trying to figure the old game out, battling away with their peers.
Earlier, at the Mallorca Golf Open in Palma, Yannik Paul had no such wobbles as he celebrated his first win on the DP World Tour (oh dear, that still sticks in the craw; what will I do when my beloved Totspurs sell their soul along with the naming rights to the stadium?). Anyway, well done to Yannik, a 28-year old German who birdied the last to win. Sehr gut. Except for a gutted Marcus Armitage, who was leading with three holes to play but dropped four shots in a nightmarish finish. He had rounds of 63, 73, 63, 73. Aaagh.
Yannik has a twin brother Jeremy who is also a tournmant pro but I suppose it’s too much to hope that they and the Danish Hojgaard twins, Rasmus and Nicolai, could be on a Ryder Cup team together.One of my favourite trophies has pride of place in amongst my trinkets for several reasons, not least because I won it at Pedrena, where Seve learned his golf. Sadly, he was otherwise engaged and wasn’t there to present it to me but it remains memorable because it was one of the few times – probably the only time if I’m honest – that I came off the golf course and said, “I couldn’t have scored any better; I gave every shot my full attention.”
I was also cream-crackered.
And realised why it’s a rare achievement, even for the very best.
It’s mentally and physically exhausting.
It was wet, I used borrowed clubs and at the dinner afterwards made my winning speech in Spanish (it was always a good bit better than my German), much to astonishment of the assembled multitude. Admittedly, after they’d twigged what I was attempting, all I needed to do was shut up, hoist the well-constructed trophy on high and accept the acclaim…
The plaque reads: Consejeria De Cultura Educacion Y Deporte, I Trofeo Internacional De Golf Para Periodistas, Abril 1990, so it was a long time ago but it was an international event and the periodistas (journalists) came from far and wide…Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Viva Espana.
I wasn’t going to mention LIV golf ever again – because I’m lucky enough not to have to – but I thought I’d better have a look at what’s going on at Doral where they’re having some sort of team comp for lots of dosh. The added bonus is that Donald Trump, the former and would-be-future leader of the western world, is there – the place is now called Trump National Doral – playing in the pro-am and promoting Trump Turnberry’s claims to a return to the Open rota.
The course was revived and reinvented by architect Martin Ebert to general acclaim and Trump said, “We did a big surgery on Turnberry and it has gotten great reviews, even from people who hate me. It is rated the No 1 course in Europe now.”
When Iain Carter, the BBC’s estimable golf correspondent, told me he was going to this thing at Doral, I asked him, “Why?” He said, “Because it’s newsworthy.”
And, much though it pains me to admit, I suppose that’s hard to argue with, especially when you’ve got the not-so-estimable Donald in the mix.
There are two memories that come to mind from back in the day when I covered golf tournaments and Doral, a posh resort in Miami, with its feared Blue Monster course, was one of the highlights of the PGA Tour’s schedule. I had one of my best – and most expensive – pedicures there (not, I hasten to say, on expenses) and heard one of my all-time favourite gallery comments.
Two blue rinse Floridians, well beyond the first flush but immaculately turned out and still game, were surveying the 18th and the golfers striding up the fairway and one said to her friend: “I’ve always liked Greg Norman [then one of the best players in the world; now LIV’s chief spokesman]. He’s got such a great pair of buns.”
On that note….we’ll go to something a little loftier.