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  • Alistair Tait

Making Peper proud

George Peper’s words are ringing in my ears as I prepare to play golf for the first time in 28 days, since being humbled at Hunstanton. It’s 4:59am and I’m buzzed for my tee time at Woburn Golf Club today – even though I’m only playing nine holes this afternoon!

It feels like Christmas morning for the second time this year.

Peper put golf in perspective 10 years ago when he spoke at the 2010 Association of Golf Writers' dinner ahead of the Open Championship at St Andrews. With PGA Tour boss Tim Finchem and European Tour chief executive George O’Grady sitting a few feet from him, the former Golf Magazine editor said:

“Golf isn’t about FedEx Cup points and the Race to Dubai. If professional golf were to vanish from the earth tomorrow, golfers around the world would doff their caps, observe a moment of silence and then go right on playing the game they love.”

Golfers in England return to the game they love today for the first time since we went into lockdown number 2. The clamour for tee times tells you Peper’s words are as bang on now as they were 10 years ago.

On the 27 November we had the ground breaking news that the PGA Tour and European Tour are to enter a merger, oops, a “strategic alliance” (who thinks up BS terms like these?). Here’s the rub: most who play this great game couldn’t care less if the world’s two top tours band together. In fact, while people like myself and many of my golf writing peers were all over the strategic alliance news, most aficionados of this stick and ball game probably only took a passing interest. Most of them probably only also take a passing interest in the professional circuits, never mind the nitty gritty of a deal between the world’s best professional golf tours.

I used to conduct a wee teaser test with my golf mates that bore out Peper’s words. I’d ask them which European Tour event was being played in any given week. Most didn’t have a clue. Most didn’t even care. Here's the truth: sometimes I have no idea what European Tour event is being played in a particular week.

Most of those who play this game probably only care about the tournaments that really matter: the Open Championship, the Masters, the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Women’s Open Championship, the Curtis Cup, Walker Cup ..... It perhaps gets a wee bit parochial after that, with "regular" events in their home country attracting their attention. I don’t think many golf club members and casual players are scanning the leaderboards of PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, European Tour and Ladies European Tour events on a regular basis.

In fact, I’d hazard a guess that if you asked the majority of those who play this great game to name the players leading the respective money lists of the men’s and women’s tours on either side of the Atlantic on a week to week basis, most would struggle to come up with the correct answers. Even I struggle to do that, and I’ve been writing about this game for a long time.

Seriously, who the hell can keep up when the hamster spins on its wheel for nigh on 52 weeks of the year, and seasons blend into each other like the ocean merging into the horizon? Maybe when the PGA Tour and European Tour get round to discussing the terms of their merger they may want to have a wee discussion about overkill, about that old fashioned economic theory called supply and demand .

No, the majority who play this game are focussed on their own golf, on actually playing the game. The professional tours are just a wee distraction, filler for the most part to kill time, especially on slow Sundays.

By the way, the respective tournaments on either side of the pond this week are the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Classic and a double bill for the European Tour of the Golf in Dubai Championship and the South African Open. The money leaders? Patrick Reed leads the Race to Dubai. Dustin Johnson heads the FedEx Cup standings. Emily Kristine Pedersen has just won the LET’s Race to the Costa Del Sol. Danielle Kang is the Race to CME Globe leader. Oh for the days of order of merits and money lists, huh……

But enough of professional golf. Today’s like Christmas day for thousands of golfers across England as they return to the fairways again. It certainly feels that way for me. I’ve got a new golf bag, new shafts in my three woods I’m dying to try out and I’m buzzed to be heading to the golf course.

I don’t care where my opening tee shot goes. I don’t even care what I score. I’m going to enjoy a strategic alliance with my good mate Dave. Izzy will be in tow, as always, and might even get a wee sausage treat at the halfway house for the first time in almost a month.

I’m going to try and smell the flowers, or at least the wet leaves, along the way and consign professional golf to the recesses of my mind. Exactly where it belongs.

George will be proud of me.

#JustSaying: “My plan was to immerse myself in the course, feel its charms….” Lorne Rubenstein

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