Press coverage of golf was extensive last Saturday. I don’t mean tournaments being reported in the sports pages – that hardly happens these days – but in terms of its appearance in other sections of the newspapers and different parts of the media.
For example, Liam Fox, the trade secretary responsible for repositioning Britain’s commercial position in the world post-Brexit (whatever sort of occupation that is), was prominently quoted as saying that British businessmen had got “too lazy and too fat” to get out and about exporting stuff. He suggested this was down to directors of “companies who could be contributing to our national prosperity but choose not to because it might be too difficult or too time-consuming or because [it would mean] they can’t play golf on a Friday afternoon”. Blimey – strong stuff! But then he is a politician, probably getting the excuses in early for when he proves he’s not up to doing his own job.
Elsewhere, there was almost a dreadful accident at Sandown race course when a ball that had been lying in the longer grass on the track – there’s a golf course and a driving range in the middle of it – was thrown up by the hooves of one horse into the helmet of a hockey on a horse behind. “I’m very lucky it hit my helmet and not my face,” said the jockey, Charlie Bennett. “Imagine being hit by a flying golf ball when you’re already doing 40 mph?” I think I’d rather not imagine that, actually.
In the Daily Mail, meanwhile, Charles Sale ran a bit of a piece about why Wayne Rooney probably wouldn’t get into Prestbury Golf Club if he tried. (He’s a member of nearby Mottram Hall and his son, Kai, apparently enjoys the game.) David Holmes, the general manager of Prestbury Golf Club, which is in arguably the poshest village in the Greater Manchester area, said: “There may have been a feeling in the past that we didn’t want footballers as they wouldn’t get involved in club activities. And on occasion their behaviour hasn’t been brilliant. Carlos Tevez and his chums did not always dress appropriately and were loud around the course.” So I don’t see Prestbury being in the vanguard of any moves to make golf more appealing to the young.
But back to the beginning. What would Barak Obama think of Fox’s comments? (Or, come to that, what would his wannabe replacement, the golf-loving and resort-owning Donald Trump, think of them?) Last month the present President of the United States recorded his 300th round of golf while in office, this one while on holiday at Martha’s Vineyard. That’s an average of just over three rounds a month – he says he’s played twice as much in his second term as in his first – and he claims he’s improving, telling the Golf Channel that he’s off “an honest 13”. I guess if he played every Friday rather than the approximate equivalent of three in every four, he’d be even better. “My irons are good, my driving is straight but unimpressive in length, and my putting’s decent,” he said. “Chipping is OK. My sand game is terrible.” Having said that, Obama was famously shown watching the demise of Osama bin Laden in his own personal bunker shortly after returning from a round of golf to view the Navy Seals attack in Pakistan in May 2011. There’s dedication to the game for you.
What would Liam Fox have been doing before something like that? Most likely moaning about something else.
Robert Green’s ‘Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius’ is available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @robrtgreen