Monday, 21 December 2015
I used to be asked by friends & colleagues “What is your golf handicap?” To which my usual, response was one word “Golf”.
My earliest recollections of the game were accompanying my father, as he and a band of other hardy stalwarts transformed a large area of North Taranaki sand dunes into a playable 18 hole links. So as a youngster I equated the term ‘golf’ with gorse & thistles, wild rabbits and exhausting toil.
In truth this impression has never left me. When I look at what LPGA professionals have to endure on a weekly basis I am amazed that they do so well – choking local haze, travel fatigue, lost luggage, fractious fans & family commitments.
My father was a good amateur golfer and had the build to make it so. His height helped him master a better than average swing and he did reasonably well in tournaments. I by comparison, inherited the worst physical attributes of both my parents. Short in the arms, middling in stature and built like the rugby forward I later became, any chance of a good golf swing was born to fail, quite literally.
Junior golf tournaments started for me at age ten and fortunately terms like ‘cut’ at that time did not enter the local vocabulary. By age thirteen I knew everything I needed to know about replacing divots, getting trundler wheels out of sand and hacking through lupins in search of my ball. My adolescent study of poetry also found me agreeing with Wordsworth when he uttered the immortal words “Golf is a day spent in a round of strenuous idleness”.
In short, by the time I was ready for high school I was also ready to pack away my clubs for good.
So what you may well ask is giving me a renewed interest in golf?
Put simply, a chance twiddling of the TV remote a couple of years ago drew me to a young Lydia Ko winning her first pro tournament in Taiwan. It was one of those rare free-to-air showings on New Zealand television and my interest was piqued.
After watching the Swing Skirts tournament unfold I was hooked; and I have been following the LPGA tour ever since. In particular, we Kiwis admire Lydia’s rapid rise to the top of women’s golf.
In a country that is dominated by male sporting achievements – principally rugby – having a woman world number one is a great source of pride to many Kiwis. It is her demeanor on and off the course as much as her golfing prowess that impresses us.
We shouldn’t under estimate the impact of this success on the growth of, and interest in, the game in New Zealand.
George Harper of New Zealand Golf is quoted as saying that the ‘Ko Effect’ has had a real impact on the growth of the Junior Women and Secondary Women’s game.
Junior women have seen an increase of nine per cent since 2013 and secondary women has risen 17 per cent.
Given golf's raised sporting profile I am almost tempted to go out and buy a new set of clubs…..almost