I’ve had a pretty hectic, but hugely enjoyable, week in St Andrews and I’ve now tumbled straight into another six non-stop days of action, researching and then commentating – from the BBC studios in Salford – on the USPGA at Quail Hollow, in Charlotte, North Carolina. I did ask Patricia to write my blog piece this week as well as her own, but she didn’t even pause to consider that suggestion – too much golf to play and happy retirement hours to fill, I suspect.
Even I relish the occasional escape from the wall-to-wall golf that makes up my existence at this time of year. So, it was a delightful start to my week in Scotland to catch up with an old schoolfriend Tricia McIntosh, and some of her family in Linlithgow. Refreshingly non-golfy, Tricia is diving headlong into her own new and exciting world of retirement and, despite loving her teaching job of some 35 years, she has found no need to cast long, yearning backward glances. Hmm, wonder if there’s something in this retirement lark after all?
On to St Andrews for the Ricoh Women’s British Open (RWBO) and another catch-up, this time with an old university pal, Kathy Christie. We met on our first day at St Andrews University and Cathy and her hubby have now settled back in the auld grey toon so proving that some of the residents of this epicentre of golf can, in fact, exist quite happily without pursuing a little ball over miles of rolling terrain. Her big news? Why, she’s retired, of course! And loving it. Doesn’t understand how she’d time to work etc etc. Note to self: after the USPGA this week, investigate this happy-clappy retirement land that now seems to be peopled with ridiculously fresh-faced friends of mine who have parked all stress and appear reinvigorated, re-energised……and busy!
The Beeb were doing the highlights of the RWBO and it’s never a dull week when you share it with Peter Alliss and Ken Brown.
Kingsbarns provided a visual feast, the golf was outstanding despite the indifferent weather and the players were, as always, very approachable and accommodating with their time. Ricoh did a splendid job and all were warmly welcomed by the Scottish galleries. Was I the only one, however, who chuckled at the irony of the parting admonition to the players to “Haste ye back”? Nothing approaching “haste” was spotted during the playing of the championship, so a black mark must go to those officials tasked with endless timings which resulted in zero action. Let’s leave that discussion to another day.
On each of the first two days I also did an hour in the booth (American for commentary box) for The Golf Channel alongside former Women’s British Open champion, Karen Stupples, and Tom Abbott, a veritable walking encyclopedia on women’s golf. Their modus operandi is totally different from that of the BBC where the commentary is specifically about the actual golf being played with snippets of info about the players and course. The Golf Channel comment mostly on the players, the course and topics of interest like the Solheim Cup team selections with occasional reference to the golf on the screen. Two entirely different ways of delivering the same product.
The Solheim Cup thread, of course, was of huge interest all week. My great pal Marta Dotti, coach supreme, is one of Annika Sorenstam’s vice captains and along with Maria McBride (aka Mimi Hjorth) and Catriona Matthew was working hard, crunching the numbers and stats to select the best possible European team. We did manage a couple of coffees in between the showers and work commitments, however – another great catch-up with a pal. I also had a little chat with the US captain Juli Inkster one morning in my hotel where she was having breakfast with some of her backroom team. Despite looking calm she didn’t seem convinced when I suggested she’d such an array of talent to choose from that she could hardly go wrong with her captain’s picks! Always easy from the outside looking in.
The week was rounded out with a little farewell party for the Beeb’s outstanding Golf Editor, Kate McKeag, who has been with them for around thirty years. The freelance world is beckoning and I just hope she keeps some golf in her impressive portfolio so I have the opportunity of working with her in the future. But wait….it was only at the start of this piece that I thought retirement sounded SO attractive and that last sentence would suggest my subconscious thinks otherwise. But then, swanning around all over the place watching golf can hardly be called work, can it?