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  • Alistair Tait

The 12 golfers of Christmas – The Optimist

Welcome to my Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers I’ve played with over the years. A wide variety of people with a vast array of personalities enjoy this game. I’ve distilled them down into 12 types to entertain you over Christmas.

I obviously pre-wrote these so I didn’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. No flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family, eating and drinking too much and taking Izzy for long walks. So, in true BBC style, please do not respond to these blogs; they’ve been pre-recorded.

3. The Optimist

I suppose the majority of us who play this game are optimists. How else do you explain continuing to do something at which we fail at more often than not?

That’s true in professional golf, too. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam are widely regarded as the best players this game as ever seen. Yet they’ve lost more than they’ve won. Imagine how others with just a fraction of their talent feel. Yet they plough on regardless.

As do we. I don’t have the figures to hand, but pretty sure the average handicap hasn’t changed since I began playing the game over 30 years ago. I’m sure it’s still 18, but perhaps someone reading this can provide the definitive answer.

I’m an optimist. An eternal optimist, some might say. I’m probably the worst type of golfer: the sort who thinks he’s better than he actually is. My best golf is probably behind me, yet I still harbour notions of greatness. Perhaps delusions of greatness might be a better term.

I’m not alone. Face it, most of us travel to the golf course more in hope than in expectation.

I love the optimists’, er, optimism. I remember one Open Championship when Padraig Harrington came off the golf course after a round in horrendous conditions. While others were wailing about the wind and the rain, Harrington had this to say when someone asked him if he was glad to be off the golf course. He replied:

“No. I quite enjoyed that. In fact, I wouldn’t mind another go.”

Padraig: you just have to love him.

Club professionals love the optimists, too. They’re the ones who still think they can buy a better game.

Aye, right!

A good friend, a low handicapper – you know who you are – is a firm believer most golf club members shouldn’t buy new equipment to help them get better. They should invest in lessons.

The optimists probably do that too, but it doesn’t stop them from itching to buy the latest driver promising to add yards to tee shots and hit more fairways. Or invest in a new set of irons because they aren’t hitting enough greens. A putter worth £400 that’ll help me hole more putts? Sure, do you take American Express?

You can tell the optimists by the things they say.

“At least I’ve got my bad hole out of the way early.”
“I didn’t play well but I found something over the last six holes I can work on.”
“Had a great lesson this morning. I know what I’ve been doing wrong.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my long game, I just have to work on my chipping and putting and I’ll be fine.”

How many times have we made that last statement. Or the reverse.

The beauty of the optimists is they truly believe tomorrow will bring better golf. Those last two good drives from the previous round feed the imagination, let’s them leave the golf course thinking they’re onto something that will bring rewards the very next round.

I once played in a golf writers’ competitions at the London Club. One member of my four ball announced as he walked to the first tee he was playing so well he was going to win the competition.

He blobbed the first five holes.

A fellow 72 Club member told fellow members the evening before teeing it up for 72 holes in one day over lovely Littlestone Golf Club that he was going to be the first player in 72 Club history to break 80 all four rounds. He took seven shots to find the fairway of the benign 300-yard, par-4, 1st hole. Hit the green with his eighth blow and three putted for an 11.

Golf’s a great game, isn’t it?

#JustSaying: “It is a wonderful tribute to the game or to the dottiness of the people who play it that for some people somewhere there is no such thing as an insurmountable obstacle, an unplayable course, the wrong time of day or year.” Alistair Cooke

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