This blog likes to be a bit silly and tries not to take itself or anything else too seriously but sometimes life grabs you by the throat and shakes you so hard that you have to pay attention and stop wittering on about not playing your king of diamonds when you should have or your partner leaving you in 3 clubs when you’ve opened and she has 21 points on her own. Believe me, we bridge bores, especially those of us who know bugger all, can match golfers yawn for yawn.
On Tuesday, having seen the footage of Tiger’s courtesy car lying in a crumpled heap at the bottom of a wooded slope, I feared I’d be writing a bit of a eulogy, recalling his career and his influence on the game and whether he’d done enough to be called the greatest of all time. I refuse to use that ghastly acronym GOAT it’s just not good enough. A goat that’s not a horned ruminant animal is a foolish person, according to my dictionary, so perhaps Tiger, who’s an intelligent man, could come up with something better during the long months of recuperation and rehab.
The crash won’t have done his battered back much good – he had his fifth back surgery a few weeks ago – and his right leg and ankle were badly shattered . By all accounts he’s lucky to be alive, saved by a top-of-the range-SUV and his seatbelt. My goodness, some of us can remember the early days when we resented being told to wear the new-fangled safety thingys but a lot of people owe their lives to the way the slogan “clunk, click every trip” wormed its way into our brains and persuaded most of us to belt up whenever we get behind the wheel.
It’s a catchphrase that also became associated with Jimmy Savile, who was revealed, far too late, as a shameless, prolific sexual predator who blighted countless lives. He abused youngsters who looked up to him and trusted him and were too scared – and ashamed – to tell and ask for help. Earlier this week, Madelene Sagstrom, the 28-year old Swede who is defending the Gainbridge LPGA title at Lake Nona, revealed that she had been abused by a family friend when she was seven and had kept it to herself, ashamed she said, until she told Robert Karlsson, her coach, in 2016.
“This was something I was never going to tell anybody,” Sagstrom said, but Karlsson, Europe’s No 1 in 2008, twice a Ryder Cup player and, more importantly, an empathetic man, had asked her to think about why she was having so much trouble controlling her emotions on the course. She realised it was important to talk about the thing she’d buried for so long, spending years trying to pretend it didn’t matter that much. It proved cathartic.
“I’ve said the worst thing I can say,” Sagstrom recalled, “and I felt so free…..I wasn’t hiding any more…..”Golf had been her salvation and when she released her demons, she took her game to new heights, playing in the Solheim Cup in 2017, her rookie year on the LPGA tour and winning for the first time last year. She and the LPGA did not take the decision to share her story lightly but it is part of the Drive On campaign, which is designed to inspire by telling the players’ stories and revealing the people and characters beneath the visors.
Sagstrom’s harrowing tale appeared in full on lpga.com on Monday and a video was posted on her Instagram, with this introduction: “As human beings we’re all facing challenges and traumas. Hard, deep and emotional stories that change who we are and how we look at ourselves. This is my story. A story how I’ve handled trauma and grown into the person I am today. How I’ve changed the way I view myself and see my own worth. If you’re out there and feel alone, remember you’re not. We’re all in this together and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”
Not surprisingly, given the attention and the emotion, Sagstrom made a shaky start to the defence of her title with a round of 77, five over par, that included a birdie at the 1st but a couple of ugly double bogeys at the 15th and 18th. She’s 12 shots behind Lydia Ko, the leader but no one’s in any doubt that the defending champ has played a blinder this week and impressed countless people with her fortitude.
“It’s slightly overwhelming,” she said, “but it feels so good inside…..If I touch one life by telling my story, it will all be worth it.” Judging by the response so far, it’s been more than worth it. Thanks Madelene.
Annika Sorenstam, who played with Sagstrom, said, “It takes a lot of courage to do what she did, to be able to share some intimate personal stories from her childhood that must have just been obviously haunting her for years and years…..I’ve reached out and told her I’m proud of you and if you need anything I’m here to support you in whatever you need….”
For the record – and because the tournament doesn’t seem to be available anywhere on my telly – here are some scores: Sorenstam, venturing out of retirement at the age of 50, had a 75, as did Laura Davies and Carlota Ciganda; Leona Maguire 69; Sophia Popov 70; Albane Valenzuela, Charley Hull and Mel Reid 71; Georgia Hall 72; Stephanie Meadow 76; Yani Tseng 81.
The subject matter has been a bit grim this week, so I’ll finish with a bit of light and colour, courtesy of Caroline Scallon, who is, like so many of you, a jigsaw junkie. A thousand pieces from www.eurographicspuzzles.eu. Notice, Caroline says, with relief, that there are no “endless, seamless skies”. And no snow. The white stuff nearly defeated one veteran puzzler I know – nearly but not quite.
And finally, another Mary McKenna special to make our hearts soar.