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  • Alistair Tait

It pays to heed Harvey’s homilies

Sven Strüver seemed to have things in perspective after missing a short putt on San Roque’s 15th green. The German turned to myself and John Paramor and said:

“Oh well, it’s just a ball game.”

It would have been a wonderful way to react to missing a fairly simple three-foot putt. But what happened next really gave us a sense of just what golf meant to the German’s mental health and wellbeing. Strüver, a three-time European Tour winner, suddenly turned incandescent and screamed:


With that he stormed off to the 16th tee. I turned to Paramor and said “bet you’ve seen that a few times in your career.” Big John just smiled and nodded his head slowly.

Paramor retired this year after a long career that culminated with him being named the European Tour’s chief referee. He saw a lot of joy during his career, but he also saw a lot of agony.

I’ve seen my fair share too. I’ve lost count of the number of times a scheduled post-round interview was suddenly cancelled because the player I was about to interview shot 76 or 78, and decided range time was far more important than talking to me. It got to the stage where I would base the chances on either the interview happening or how smooth it would go just from how said player finished his or her round. Really bad rounds meant there was often no chance of the interview taking place, while on other occasions trying to elicit intriguing conversation with someone who’d just shot a 74 was like pulling teeth. Although, to be fair, I once had a great post round discussion with a player who snapped his putter over a fence just before entering the scorer’s hut.

Believe me, I know why Tom Kite once said:

“This game makes cry babies out of all us at some point.”

Even though it was only a Pro-Am, Strüver wasn’t playing golf for fun. It was his living. I can’t imagine the pressure that comes with knowing you’re going to make a weekly pay check if you can just hit the final green with a 4-iron and two putt.

We’re obviously different. Our lives aren't going to change if we hack it all over the place and double bogey every hole. Remember, we're supposed to have fun, which is why the two blogs I did this week on Stephen Smith’s 10 reasons golf can makes us happy were so enjoyable to write. Those blogs elicited a big response, with subscriber’s getting in touch to thank me for writing about Smith’s green paper. Indeed, many plan to put into practise some of the 10 reasons.

Smith’s green paper led me to scour through my own library, and I just happened to turn to Harvey Penick’s writings. Penick, who coached Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw, became an overnight sensation when his Little Red Golf Book was published in 1992. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do so. It’s the polar opposite of Homer Kelly’s The Golfing Machine, a book that requires a degree in astrophysics to comprehend. I’ve read it twice and still don’t know what’s going on!

Penick’s book is full of pithy homilies from years of teaching. His subsequent book The Game for Lifetime is another selection of short thoughts on golf worth reading. There’s one wee chapter in particular that’s relevant to Smith’s advice. It’s simply entitled “Have fun, and consists of just 14 paragraphs. I won’t repeat all of it. But below are the highlights.

It pays to heed Harvey’s homilies, especially when he tells us to "have fun."


“Take pleasure in the game and in your surroundings."
“Be mindful that you are in a special place. Be aware of the trees and the sky and the feel of the earth under your feet. Listen to the byplay of your companions. Breathe deeply. Forget the stock market. Enjoy yourself fully while you are inside the boundaries of the golf course, a world of its own."
“I believe playing golf can bring you happiness.”
“Golf will put you into pleasant associations with other people.
“You can learn more about your companions in one round of golf than years of parties and dinners. You can learn in one round whether you really want to play golf – or do business – with that person again."
“It’s perfectly okay to play golf for the love of the game. Going round the golf course by yourself early in the morning or late in the evening, hitting a mulligan if you feel like it, is a satisfying use of time."
“Put your mind at ease at the golf course and have fun. Golf is a game for everyone, not just the talented few.”


#JustSaying: “It is very pleasant to indulge in hopeless day dreams.” Bernard Darwin

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