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  • Alistair Tait

No place for sore losers in golf

Can you imagine losing a golf match and not having the decency to shake your opponent’s hand. Can you imagine finishing second in, say, the club championship, or a big competition, and not turning up for the prize giving?

Thought so. Most of us just wouldn’t act that way. If we did we’d probably quickly run out of friends. No one would want to play with us.

Sore losers are hard to find in golf because they usually get the message and find another sport to play, one where honour and integrity aren’t so deeply ingrained.

If this game has taught us anything it is humility. We become gracious losers because it happens so often. More importantly, we lose not always because the other player was better than us, but often because of our own failings. Failings we have to learn to live with.

The game’s champions are not always great because of their skill with club and ball, but because of the way they conduct themselves both in victory and defeat. The immediate image that comes to mind is Jack Nicklaus walking off the 18th green arm and arm with Tom Watson at Turnberry after losing their famous 1977 Duel in the Sun in the Open Championship.

Golf’s greatest player not only conducted himself with grace when he won, but also when he lost. Often forgotten among Nicklaus’s 18 major victories is the fact he had 19 seconds in the tournaments that really matter. He finished third nine times and had another slew of top 10s.

In other words, even the greatest player lost far more than he won. Yet not once did he chuck his toys out of his pram, throw a temper tantrum or let himself or the game down.

Most great players behave impeccably, not just in majors but regular tournaments too. We can probably count the toy throwers on one hand. Colin Montgomerie comes to mind. He could throw his toys farther than most.

Anyone who covered Monty in his European heyday knows all about the Scotsman’s colossal temper. I don’t know how many “Colin Montgomerie stormed away from …” headlines I read over my career. Quite a few. I penned a few of the articles below such headlines.

The eight-time European Tour order of merit winner once stormed away from The Oxfordshire Golf Club and left former wife Eimear behind. He was back in his Surrey home before he realised he was, er, actually meant to give Eimear a lift home in the family car, the same one in which they’d rode to the tournament in together.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. Ask a plethora of newspaper journalists who covered Monty during his heyday, when he was known as wonderful on Wednesday, sullen on Sunday.

Yet for all Monty’s petulance, he still shook his opponent’s hand on the 18th green, albeit often with gritted teeth. He still turned up at the prize ceremony.

Sergio Garcia is another whose behaviour has let him down on occasion. Garcia’s temper induced misdemeanours are well documented. From kicking a shoe and nearly hitting a rules official in the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, to spitting in a hole after missing a putt at Doral, to damaging greens in Saudi Arabia, Garcia’s done quite a bit of the bad boy bit.

He wasn’t exactly gracious towards Padraig Harrington when the Irishman defeated him in a playoff for the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Yet he still shook Harrington’s hand. He attended the prize-giving ceremony.

There are a few others who on occasion haven’t lived up to the etiquette this game was founded on. However, the vast majority of great players going back through history have set an example the majority of amateur golfers have steadfastly followed. No matter how crestfallen we might be we shake hands, congratulate the other player, turn up for the prize giving and clap with everyone else when the winner receives the trophy .

Now isn’t that a civilised way to conduct ourselves? Anyone who disagrees should perhaps find another sport to play.

Can’t imagine any fair-minded person would argue with that, do you?

#JustSaying: “You don’t win much in a career. Nobody does, so it’s just a question of hitting the highs and getting the most of it when you do.” Padraig Harrington


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