It occurred to me the other day that we, as a nation of watchers of others, have become so accustomed to seeing tremendous skills on display that we can often take for granted their amazing expertise.  This year, in the golfing world, there have been two outstanding proponents in the men’s and women’s games and they have been voted by their peers as simply the best for 2020.  Take a bow, Rory McIlroy and Jin Young Ko.

Let’s deal with Ko first.  In only her second year on the LPGA she won four times, including two major championships, and it was her insatiable work ethic which helped her to add three second-place finishes and a further five top tens.  In the midst of compiling these impressive statistics she set the longest bogey-free stretch in the history of the game – a total of 114 holes.  The previous record was 110 holes, set in 2000 by Tiger Woods.  Ko’s greatest strength is that she simply has no weaknesses and she is rightly No 1 in the world.

Jin Young Ko – uncatchable this year. [Photo courtesy of LPGA.]

McIlroy also won on four occasions in 2019.  Alas, there were no majors but he is revelling in what he describes as “the most consistent year of my career”.  From 24 starts he recorded 19 top ten finishes and his improvements are all measureable.  He’s become a bit of a stats junkie and the marginal gains so beloved by professional sportsmen and women are showing up in multiple categories, particularly in his putting – and that is what he feels is at the root of his success.  He described it succinctly as his “best putting year ever this year”.

Always a sublime striker, McIlroy has his short game and putting to thank for his amazing consistency this season.. [Photo courtesy of Margaret Hobson.]

Chasing hard on the tails of these two players are a host of others, all hard working and highly skilled and we who watch (as opposed to do) have the delicious prospect of an intriguing and compelling 2020.

I was doing some other watching, new watching for me, at the weekend.  We have a highly successful, small, independent, family glass-blowing business a hundred yards down the road, just over the border in Wales.  E+M Glass were holding an open day with mulled wine, live music, stalls and glass-blowing demonstrations – a perfect opportunity to do some early Christmas shopping and get a close up view of an amazing skill.  Apparently, it takes about seven years to learn about being a glass-blower and then, as with most things, you simply keep on and on learning.  Charlie, the son of Ed and Margy, the E+M in the company name, was doing the demo and in no time at all he had whipped up a beautifully elegant wine glass.

Charlie Burke showing us the art of glass-blowing.

It put me in mind of the old challenges on The Generation Game and I reckoned that it would take many years to perfect Charlie’s skills.  But then you look at something like Strictly Come Dancing, of which I am an unashamed fan, and it seems that each year there are one or two novices who by week 10 or 11 are described as being indistinguishable from the experts, the professional dancers.  Could you ever, ever imagine that happening in golf (or glass-blowing) in that amount of time?  It just wouldn’t happen in a million years, so does that make our sport just miles more difficult than dancing?  Are our skills just so much more demanding to acquire?  Whatever you think, I don’t think Strictly Come Golfing has a future.

And finally, Christmas has well and truly arrived in the shape of my new kit and caboodle from Ping.  I feel as excited as I did as a youngster when I was building up my first set of Jean Donalds with one club for birthday and one for Christmas.  A niggly back means I must hold off for a few days before taking to the range or the course, so I must hold my enthusiasm in check just for a little while.

Christmas has most definitely arrived!

So, all that remains is to thank all of our faithful readers who follow the various ramblings of the Madill sisters. Another year has whizzed by and we are taking our annual Christmas break until the middle of next month.

Seasons greetings to everyone, swing it smoothly and hope to see you in 2020!