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  • Alistair Tait

The Weight Of Expectation

Most of us have never experienced the weight of expectation, not to the extent gifted athletes, gifted golfers, deal with it on a constant basis. How many cope is beyond me.

Many don’t; they are often crushed by the weight of expectation.

Anyone who’s been in this game for any length of time has witnessed the hype that often surrounds a gifted youngster. Said youngster is often built up to unreal expectations – yes, I’ve been guilty of it myself – only to never come close living up to the hype. American tour pro Peter Jacobsen once said:

“The streets of Chicago are full of first round leaders.”

Well, newspapers, golf magazines, and websites are full of stories of promising youngsters who never lived to their perceived talents.

Can’t miss kids who missed big time.

Imagine not only having live with the weight of expectation, but having to handle the aftermath when your dream of winning tournaments, majors, dies.

I’m thinking of this conundrum because we’re in the middle of three tournaments these next two weeks with many teeing it up in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA), the Chevron Championship and the Masters, where they won’t only have to handle the challenges that come with playing Augusta National and Rancho Mirage, but the expectancy of family, friends, fans and the media.

Let’s start with the ANWA. The game’s best women’s amateurs are teeing it up in this tournament to do what so few women have done before them: lift a trophy on the hallowed soil of Augusta National.

The ANWA start sheet is an impressive list of the top unpaid players in the world. Rest assured all these players will have enormous expectations on their shoulders to go to Augusta National and win. Yet, as we’ve seen so often, for many making the ANWA field will be the pinnacle of their golfing life. Many won’t make it in the pro game; there just isn’t enough room for all of them.

I know of many talented youngsters touted for success who no longer play the game. Trying to live up to the weight of expectation eventually forced them out of golf. Perhaps they’d still be enjoying this royal & ancient pastime if they hadn’t been quite so proficient at hitting a small white ball over green and pleasant fields.

More than once I’ve asked the “why don’t you play any more” question of former promising golfers only to hear something along the lines of:

“Because I can’t live with the fact I can no longer play like I once did.”

I’m constantly amazed by a consistent question myself and other golf writers get from ordinary golf fans when it comes to tour pros. It goes something like this:

“What wrong with Player A?”

We often offer up possible explanations for why Player A has gone off the boil? Usually the honest truth comes down to one simple fact: golf is what’s wrong with Player A; or B; or C.

The Chevron and the Masters fields provide interesting insights into the weight of expectation. Both events feature starting lists replete with players expected to win either their first, second, third, fourth or even 16th major championship. Or even complete a grand slam in the case of Rory McIlroy.

As we know, there can only be one winner of the Chevron, one person who gets to don the gaudiest green jacket in sport. Fancied players can play brilliantly only to lose to another player who played just one shot better, or even someone expected to make up the numbers who has the week of his or her career. Anyone remember Larry Mize taking down a couple of heavyweights in Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros because he played the shot of his life?

This game of gowf doesn’t care about the weight of expectation. Yet failure to win either of the three events can pile even more tonnage onto that burden many carry across their shoulders, despite what a two-time major winner asserts at the bottom of this blog.

We’re just fortunate we don’t have to live with it on a constant basis. I can’t even begin to understand that dynamic.

#JustSaying: “When I have a bad round, or a bad tournament, I don’t carry it with me. I understand that we just play a game. It is important to appreciate how unimportant golf can be.” Martin Kaymer

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