My Year in Golf: Alistair Tait
What did I learn from my year in golf? Tiger Woods can say interesting things, desert storms aren’t fun, always dine with winners, mountains can be climbed, beware what you read on Twitter and the Ryder Cup isn’t huge in Turkey.
My season began with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship when Tiger Woods opened his mouth and said something interesting for once.
We know top players only turn up in places like Abu Dhabi for appearance money. Usually they utter platitudes like “I want to play around the world to experience different cultures, conditions, become a better player, blah, blah.” Rubbish! They turn up for wads of greenbacks, in Woods’ case a rumored $1.5 million.
“One of the reasons why a lot of the guys who play in Europe, they do play in Europe, and they do get paid,” Woods said.
A professional golfer who puts money first? Imagine that?!
And before I get emails, I’m not criticizing. If offered extra money to go to Abu Dhabi, I’d take it. Who wouldn’t?
If you’ve never experienced a sand storm then count yourself lucky. I’ve been to the Middle East many times and experienced strong winds, but nothing like round one of the Qatar Masters. Golfers came off the golf course sand blasted. Gouging sand out of your eyes and ears isn’t fun. John Daly said he was going to have a bath and a shower to get rid of the grit.
A colleague and I managed to have dinner with Paul Lawrie that week. He told stories I’d never have got in the media center. A great night with a great guy. I like to think I inspired him to victory that week. Don’t know about you, but I always dine with winners.
May saw me attend the BMW PGA Championship and the Wales Open. It’s easy to see why the BMW tournament is the Euro Tour’s flagship event. The car company runs a thoroughly professional tournament. As for Wales, I’d wish our stars would play in the event. We don’t have many UK tournaments, and won’t if stars skip events like the Wales Open.
June was mountain climbing time. The Great Britain & Ireland team finally climbed to great heights to win the Curtis Cup for the first time since 1996. I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see that in my lifetime.
Better still, the match was held at Nairn Golf Club, one of my favorite links.
I climbed my own mountain the following day, scaling nearby Ben Wyvis, all 3,431 feet of it. Too bad I couldn’t see 15 yards in front when I got to the top. Summer in Scotland!
The British Amateur is a highlight every year. Except I feel I’m getting older and the amateurs are getting much younger. Northern Ireland’s Alan Dunbar looked old at age 23 against 17-year-old Matthias Schwab from Austria. Dunbar won at Royal Troon but Schwab might have the better career. He looked seriously good for a teenager. He’s not alone.
The Open Championship at Royal Lytham gave me one of my best comic moments of the season. Brandt Snedeker was the third-round leader, and I put out a sneaky tweet saying he was given a combine harvester when he won the Farmers Insurance Open. The BBC took the bait and asked Snedeker about the imaginary farm machinery. He was also asked about it in the interview room. “I don’t know where this came from,” said a bemused Snedeker.
I later let him in on the joke. The lesson: Never believe what you read on twitter.
I learned another lesson in my final tournament: Never go to Turkey to watch the Ryder Cup.
I covered the World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey, watching Lydia Ko assert why she’s the No. 1 women’s amateur. Her individual total was one shot better than Korea’s winning team total. Then the United States blew the rest of the world away to win the men’s championship.
And so to the Ryder Cup singles in a bar in a Turkish hotel. A room packed full of amateur golfers, officials and myself watching Europe’s famous comeback.
Only problem was we couldn’t hear the commentary. The bar was playing piped music. I asked the bartender if he’d mind turning the musak off and turning up the TV volume. He wasn’t a golf fan. He thought the music was more important. I managed to talk him into turning it off and the TV volume up, and felt as if I was an experienced United Nations negotiator.
There might be a Turkish Open on next year’s European Tour, but I’m guessing not many ordinary Turks will turn up.
The Ryder what?