Sometimes, days, weeks, even years don’t go quite as you’d like – the yolks break, the beyond-mid-life crisis Doc Martens don’t fit, your golf swing dissolves, sponsors shun you – but the key is to shrug, regroup and plod on, muttering ‘nil desperandum’ with as much conviction as you can muster. Mo’s piece about Brendon Todd is a case study par excellence in perseverance.
And however knotty the problems any of us may have to confront, at least we don’t have Prince Andrew as our patron (Royal Portrush to name but one club) or on our list of past captains (the Royal and Ancient).
Sometimes, though, everything goes right at the right time and Benjamin Poke, of Denmark, sailed through the gruelling, nerve-shredding European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain, with six rounds in the 60s. He won by six shots from Gregory Havret, a Frenchman who has won three times on the European Tour and in 2010 finished second to Graeme McDowell in the US Open at Pebble Beach but was playing on the Challenge Tour this last season.
“Our wives so much of the time, are the most important people around us and that’s certainly the case for me,” Havret, who’s now 43, said. “She wants me to go out there and live my passion as best I can and she has always supported me with that, so this achievement is for her.”
Poke’s compatriot Rasmus Hojgaard, just 18 years, also got his card but was sad that his twin brother Nicolai didn’t make it through and probably the most relieved man was Rikard Carlsberg, a Swede who has been laid low by illness and depression in the past. He holed a 50-foot putt on the last hole to snatch the last card and was ecstatic.
“I knew I needed to hole it,” he said, “and the euphoria I felt was just happiness. I don’t think anyone really likes this week. It’s horrible. It’s pressure all week and you’re walking with tension and you don’t have much room for error….”
I covered just the one final Q-school, at a damp, windswept, closed-up, end-of-season Montpellier, shorn of its summer bounce and bonhomie and found it a very depressing week, despite the marvellous stories – mothers re-mortgaging their home to help their golf-mad sons chase their dreams, a never-ending stream of tales of sacrifice and ingenuity. I saw friends lose their card and watch their life drain away (they all survived and, usually, thrived once they’d got over the shock) and to extract any words at all from Retief Goosen, the winner, a painfully shy Afrikaner, was a task to test the patience of Job. At least he trained on well, on the playing side, and won two US Opens.Poke, who’s 27, is well aware of the vagaries of the game he plays for a living and had a suitably sensible and mature reaction to his victory: “I’m planning to celebrate this moment for a while. You work so hard and then there are times when you are struggling and it’s not easy but you’ve got to get up and carry on and celebrate the good times when they happen.”
These are pretty good times for the LPGA Tour and Mike Whan, who’s been commissioner since 2010, has had his contract extended and shows no sign of running out of steam. He has already been in the job longer than any of his predecessors but far from being ground down by the demands of promoting a bunch of women in a male-dominated sporting universe, he is relishing the challenge.On the eve of the end-of-season CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, where the first prize is $1.5 million, the biggest ever in women’s golf, Whan issued a rousing rallying call on the LPGA website. In a letter that started, “Dear Teammates”, he listed the growth in the last ten years – in prize money, tournaments, television coverage, teachers, juniors – and stressed that he had no intention of slowing down or resting on his laurels. In fact, he has grand designs.
“Imagine a future where half the people who play golf are women. How can we be satisfied with anything less? I know we won’t change the demographics overnight but if we continue to focus on the ‘future of the game’ (those under 18), we will change how golf looks in 2035! We’ve already gone form 20 per cent of youth golfers being female to 36 per cent in ten years. I think 50-50 participation is not only achievable but inevitable in junior golf…..Whan laid down a challenge to his members: “Women represent the largest untapped potential for our game to double in size….We need to take our leadership role seriously…….It’s not OK to simply play golf or be an LPGA member. Both individually and as a group, we must be relentless in finding ways to make this game better and more inviting to half the world’s population.”
And he challenged companies to pay more than lip service to equality: “If a company’s stated values are to provide equal opportunities for women to advance and succeed, why wouldn’t their marketing/sponsorship dollars reflect that? How is it that nearly every company claims equal opportunity is a cornerstone of their business but 95 per cent of all corporate sports sponsorship dollars are spent on male sports? There is no doubt we’re at a tipping point and more executives, shareholders and investors are questioning whether their corporate values are reflected in every aspect of their company, including marketing and sponsorship decisions.
“Increased corporate support translates into more opportunities for women in golf and more opportunities for female athletes to be seen as role models of confidence, ability and accomplishment……
“One of the things I’ve learned from the past ten years is I like being the underdog. I like it when others bet against us. I like the fact that some people think we’re satisfied with our progress….when the truth is, we’re just getting started.”
Nothing wan about Mr Whan.