If there’s any one single thing that’s designed to make me feel totally inept it is the acquisition of a new bit of digital techie stuff. I have in the last day or two become the (proud?) owner of a fruity sort of watch, if you get my meaning. Other makes are available, I understand, but they are all seemingly designed to enable you to run your empire from your wrist. I was reasonably confident that I had managed somehow to graft my entire phone and its contents onto said wrist and I was sitting enjoying a cuppa, happily minding my own business, when I got an unpleasant buzzy, stinging feeling and a rather terse little message from my timepiece.
“You’ve been sitting too long. Get up and move it,” it commanded. Before I knew where I was I was outside, taking a turn round the garden. I was well into my second circuit when I thought, “Hold on a minute here. Have you gone completely and utterly MAD? You are jumping to obey your WATCH?????” In a show of defiance I returned to my, now cold, cup of tea and resolutely plonked myself back down on the sofa. After an interlude of I’m not sure how long, it happened again. And so it continues. Despite copious amounts of googling and button pressing I am still getting my sharp little reminders not to be a couch potato.
Modern technology – don’t you just love it? It’s everywhere you look in life from your working environment to your social interactions to your favourite sports and hobbies. If it can be measured it certainly will be, whether it’s your heart rate, your calorie consumption, your swing speed or your weight distribution and it’ll be presented to you in a nice little graph. Several of my colleagues recently made their annual pilgrimage to the PGA show held in Florida each January. There is on display there every single gimmick, gadget and golf-related thing you could ever imagine – and quite a few you probably couldn’t. I’m reliably informed there are over ten miles of aisles housing these little gems that are going to enlighten and enliven your golf experience – and are designed to part you from your hard earned.It’s a dizzying spectacle and a long way from the domain of my first teachers, Johnny Hunter in Portstewart and P. G. “Stevie” Stephenson at Portrush, both of whom had wonderful glory holes of workshops crammed full of stuff and smelling of musty golf gloves, members’ shoes and epoxy resin.
How different life in general, and golf in particular, all was when I was trying to forge my way in the game. There are some innovations I would have loved to have had during my development as a player. Trackman, in my opinion, has been pivotal in the arena of practice and in the production of technically sound players at a remarkably young age. It engages a player and draws them in with instant feedback and information on what exactly has happened in the last swing as regards the angle of the clubface at impact, the path and speed of the club, the spin rate of the ball and such like. Guesswork and going by feel, the hallmarks of my early practice, are really minimised on today’s practice grounds.
And there’s another thing. We were on a practice GROUND with a bag of balls not good enough to play with on the course and which we hit, then went and picked up, and then hit again. Nowadays, aspiring stars can access under-cover ranges with first-class mats to hit off and balls that contain digital chips. The luxury of it! And no wandering down the fairway and rough to retrieve every ball you’ve hit.
However you find your way into golf it is, and can be, a magical game. And, rather aptly, the name of the opening tournament on the Ladies’ European Tour last week was the Magical Kenyan Ladies’ Open, played for the fourth time at Vipingo Ridge. There was a great deal of new talent on show with twenty of the sixty-four rookies with cards for this year teeing it up in the season opener.
And what a story unfolded. Shannon Tan, from Singapore, went to the Tour school at the end of last year as an amateur and managed a top twenty finish, which gave her a tricky decision – to turn pro or not to turn pro. After much soul searching and conversations with family, friends and, importantly, her coach, the nineteen-year old decided to accept her card, thus becoming the first player from her country to achieve full status on the LET.Following a couple of months of hard practice and preparation she headed to Kenya to make her debut on tour and one week later found herself with a first professional win under her belt and the first Singaporean to win on tour. Tied for the lead heading into the final round, Tan finished strongly to open up a four-shot gap over Italian Alessandra Fanali and felt the outcome completely vindicated her decision to turn pro. After her victory she confided,
“It was a tough decision to begin with but I’m glad I made it now! It’s a good thing because juniors back home know it’s possible and that anything is possible, and it can push them a little bit and inspire them.”
It was indeed an inspiring win in an inspiring setting, even if play was sometimes delayed for the strangest of reasons.Yes indeed. Magical all round.