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  • Alistair Tait

Golf keeps the heart young

Can you imagine Jim Courier taking on Raphael Nadal in a grand slam tennis final? Courier won four grand slam titles but, at age 50, it’s a safe bet Nadal would wipe him off the court.

How about a 50 year old footballer playing in the Premiership? Maybe someone who’s reached the half century competing in the NHL? What about a 50 year old former running back coming out of retirement to play in the NFL? It just wouldn’t happen unless it was a publicity stunt.

Is there another sport like golf where 50 year olds can go up against young guns and hold their own? Phil Mickelson might not win the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, but just the fact he has an excellent chance to become the oldest major winner at age 50 is one of the beautiful aspects of this game called golf.

Of course, we’re not surprised by Mickelson’s performance. Not when a couple of 48 year olds called Stewart Cink and Lee Westwood are having the sort of seasons they would have expected in their mid 30s. Cink is a two time PGA Tour winner this year. He might be making an appearance in this year’s Ryder Cup.

No many would discount Westwood from playing against Cink in Padraig Harrington’s European Team at Whistling Straits in September. The Englishman seems to have found a new lease of life in his late 40s. He’s the reigning European number one after winning last year’s Race to Dubai for the third time; he’s had runner-up finishes this year in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship.

Harrington doesn’t appear to be ready to settle back into retirement either, not if his performance at Kiawah is anything to go by. He’s lying T23 after three rounds. Rest assured Harrington doesn’t enter tournaments just to make up the numbers. The 49-year-old still wants to add to his three major victories.

One of those alongside him in joint 23rd spot is his opposite number at Whistling Straits, 54-year-old Steve Stricker.

Once again, is there another sport where players around the age of 50 can still compete against 20, 30, and 40-year olds? Look at Dame Laura Davies. She’s still competing against women old enough to be her daughters. No retirement in her sights even though she’s reached the age of 57.

It only seems like yesterday when 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly penned the greatest story in golf at Turnberry in the 2009 Open Championship. It might have been the greatest story in sport never mind golf if Cink hadn’t prevailed in the playoff. Poor Cink: the greatest win of his life and many still view him as the Grinch who stole Christmas.

And so to the game you and I play. None of us probably dreamed we would still be chasing little white balls around green and pleasant fields so many years after we first experienced the thrill of a flushed iron shot.

Yesterday a close friend was reflecting on an older friend who had recently shot his age: 86. I’ll be a very happy indeed if I get to that grand old age and I’m still swinging a golf club. Wouldn’t we all be? The beauty is we CAN play this game at the age, or even older.

No wonder golf is the greatest game ever invented

#JustSaying: “Golf keeps the heart young, and the eyes clear.” Andrew Kirkaldy

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