"And They're All Good Golfers"
Ian Poulter made the game of golf look ridiculously easy yesterday over the Marquess Course at Woburn Golf Club. Nine birdies in 12 holes looked like he was merely shelling peas.
It was yet another up close and personal look at just how good the world’s best really are. Many aspiring tour pros might think again if they played just one round with Poulter, or any other world class player. They might just realise the chasm that exists between, say, the club champion dreaming of becoming rich on the European Tour and those who ARE actually getting rich on the European Tour.
Yes, it was a casual round with friends at the club Ian has represented as touring pro for 15 years, and has had a relationship with for over 20. Those of us fortunate enough to play with him might have been a wee bit nervous, but not the world’s 51st ranked player, the man known as Mr Ryder Cup. (BTW he made three birdies in the four holes he played in my company. I have that effect on people, even if I couldn’t hit my hat alongside Poults yesterday.)
Despite reaching the age of 45, Poulter is a certainty to play in Padraig Harrington’s team this year at Whistling Straits, Poulter’s seventh appearance for Europe. It’s a run bound to end with the Englishman captaining the European team, probably in the caustic cauldron that will be New York four years from now.
Poulter’s Ryder Cup run, his 17 wins worldwide, and a near permanent place in the world top 50 for most of his career is an incredible achievement for a guy who turned pro off a handicap of four. Remember, he didn’t come from a rich family and therefore couldn’t play elite amateur golf as others did to hone their games for the European Tour. Yet he worked his you know what’s off to reach the pinnacle of the game.
Few would deny Poulter the fruits of his success, given he’s got the maximum out of his talent, especially as he continues to hold his own against younger guys bombing it past him.
I doff my cap, yet again.
As always with the affable Englishman, he was effusive in off-the-record discussions at breakfast and lunch with those of us lucky enough to have been included in this intimate golf day. His words will remain just that, off the record, but something he said on the golf course triggered this blog.
“And they’re all good golfers,” Poulter said.
Walking down the Marquess’s ninth hole, I pointed out that he had made it while many of the guys he grew up competing against hadn’t. I also relayed that many of the players I’ve covered in amateur golf, players who achieved much in the unpaid game, just didn’t kick on to European Tour success.
Quite why the Poulters of this world make it, when others who were at the pinnacle of amateur golf didn’t is a question that’s always puzzled me. It would take too long to list the players destined for success who are still seeking the holy grail, or who long ago gave up.
Poulter has reached nirvana even though very few had ever heard of Ian James Poulter until he won the 2000 Italian Open, the first of 12 European Tour wins. Not bad for a guy who just a few years earlier was taking green fees as an assistant professional in the Leighton Buzzard professional shop.
Why Poulter and not Joe Bloggs who seemed so far ahead of him when both were playing on the old MasterCard Tour? The $40 million question, and that’s just Ian’s estimated career earnings on the European and PGA Tours.
Those intangibles come into play yet again: belief, dedication, hard work, perseverance, grit, confidence, etc., pick your own word to explain why Poulter made it and many others didn’t, and good golfers continue to struggle on mini tours around the world.
It’s easy to look at tournament results from those mini tours and marvel at can’t miss kids still trying to make it. Poulter’s right: "they’re all good golfers," but they can’t all make it in the take no prisoners world of professional golf.
#JustSaying: “The streets of Chicago are full of first round leaders.” Peter Jacobsen, after taking the early, first round lead in the 1990 Masters