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  • Alistair Tait

Nowt as queer as golfers

There’s nowt as queer as folk, goes the old saying. I wonder if whoever penned that line had golfers in mind.

It would certainly seem so given the response to my 12 Golfers of Christmas series. The response I got from friends, fellow golf club members and subscribers was interesting to say the least.

So many got in touch to ask if I had so in so in mind? Others even asked if I had them in mind. One friend said he saw himself in almost all 12 blogs. To be fair, I saw something of myself in all 12 blogs too.

I had some responses suggesting other personalities I hadn’t mentioned. My brother in law spent 12 days waiting for a blog just on him alone! Honestly. He once sank the flukiest 20-foot putt on the 18th green to tie a match against me and has crowed about it ever since, a putt that seems to grow by the year. He thought that qualified him for a category of his own.

Some golfers do live in their own little worlds.

If I didn’t think golfers were an odd bunch before writing the series, then I certainly do now.

We golfers ARE an odd bunch, but we’re no different from any other group of enthusiasts, be it hill walkers, mountain climbers, cyclists, photographers or any other group of aficionados no matter what sport or past time.

The idea that golfers are all cut from the same cloth is just absurd. Study the personalities of all 156 competitors in the Open Championship and you’ll find a diverse range of characters and personalities, with their own hang ups and superstitions.

Think of the vast array of different characters we have at the top of our game. From the laid-back, gun slinger that is Dustin Johnson, to Bryson DeChambeau's scientific approach, the methodical Inbee Park, the go for broke Charley Hull, the mercurial Rory McIlory and on and on it goes.

Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo are the two most successful European Tour golfers ever. Seve won five majors, the shining jewels in his 50 European Tour victories. Faldo won six blue-chip events along with another 24 European Tour triumphs. Yet they were like surlyn and balata when it came to character.

Woods and Mickelson: Nicklaus, Palmer and Player; Hogan, Nelson and Snead; Hagen, Jones and Sarazen; Vardon, Braid and Taylor; look into any era and you don’t find clones winning golf tournaments. Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Louise Suggs, Annika Sorenstam and Babe Zaharias are the top five women’s major winners, the only players in double digits. The only thing they have in common is their ability to get the ball in the hole in fewer stokes than their rivals. All have their own idiosyncrasies, personalities, preferences, character flaws and likes and dislikes.

Golf clubs, golf societies or casual groups who like to play here there and everywhere without being tied to a golf club are just the same. There's a wide variety of personalities who love this game: when I put together my initial list of golf personalities it contained around 25 entries.

Besides eating and drinking too much over the festive period, I spent a bit of time browsing my golf library. It's full of great characters. Not just major champions. For example, Bernard Darwin’s Darwin on the Green has chapters entitled A Giddy Harumphrodite; Confessions of a Practiser; The Golfer and his Shoes; The Pampered Golfer; Rabbits, Tigers and Sheep; The Rabbit’s Ideal; Fossils of the Past; Death to the Topper; and The Dissembling Golfer. Oh, how I wish I’d included that last personality in my Christmas list.

Now don’t think I’m getting ideas above my station by comparing myself to the Darwin, the doyen of golf writing – I’m not. However, as he noted all those years ago, the people who play this game are as varied in personality as the swings they use. Part of the fascination of playing this game for me is in deciphering the personality behind the player.

As they say, there’s nowt as queer as golfers.

#JustSaying: “You must expect anything in golf. A stranger comes through, he’s keen for a game, he’s affable enough, and on the eighth fairway he turns out to be an idiot.” Alistair Cooke

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