Golf

Kenny Archer: Nothing wrong with jumping on Ryder Cup bandwagon

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke with Rory McIlroy (right) and Lee Westwood (left) ahead of the 41st edition of the tournament at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota
Picture by AP 

GOLF was never really my game - I only ever had student membership at Royal Brackaville.

The mates with whom I played pitch and putt didn’t take it at all seriously either. Not for us any etiquette around the tee. Backswings were the signal for concentration - and wind - to be broken, by any means necessary. Even without such distractions, there were often gales of laughter at the awfulness of the tee shots produced.

The only time there was the requisite silence was of the stunned variety, when someone actually hit a ball accurately and in the air for more than 30 yards. Such shots occurred more often around the greens.

Although I’m happy to be a leftie, I ‘played’ golf right-handed, which saved me the expense of buying expensive left-handed clubs. My leftie-ness did come in useful on those odd occasions when my ball was buried next to a hedge or boundary fence on the left of a course (every other hole).

The only golf coaching book I ever read was written by comic actor Leslie Nielsen, which included a tip to hit your ball as if it were being attacked by "a bird-eating spider". Much better advice than most of the mumbo-jumbo that passes for sports psychology nowadays.

Such laidback attitudes got us into trouble on real golf courses and, eventually we drifted away from our journeys from tee-to-rough-to-bunker-to-green-back-to-bunker and, eventually, into the hole.

At least the ending of my golfing days saved me from spending the vast sums on gear and clubs that certain friends lashed out. It’s my belief that you should stop wasting money on gear and clubs by the time you turn 30, whether or not you’re married with children.

For many, golf is merely an excuse to get away from ‘the other half’ and/or the ankle-biters and there’s much to be mocked in the sport for its still prevailing archaic, stuffy attitudes and terrible clothes.

But I won’t accept any mockery for supporting Europe in the Ryder Cup. My only problem is I’ll have to be part of #TeamBlue, but at least that colour brings out the best in my eyes. It’s that time of the biennial again when golf truly matters to the general populace.

This approach applies annually in other sports, such as when Wimbledon comes around and many people pretend to be really interested in tennis for a fortnight. Or blooming Cheltenham week, when people who couldn’t tell their Ascot from ‘the elbow’ let on they are picking horses based on form and ‘the going’ rather than because their names reminds them of their granny or their first car or their dog.

So indulge us when we debate the pairings of players who we wouldn’t know if we met them in our soup. Forgive us for discussing the running order in the singles, the best strategy concerning when and where to place your better players, even though we hadn’t heard of most of those players before today.

And please don’t tell me I’ve nothing in common with the rest of Europe. I got put off geography by a teacher who publicly mocked me in front of the entire class for using a phrase WHICH WAS IN THE BLOODY TEXTBOOK. Not that I’m still scarred by the experience.

However, long before I ever ventured to ‘the continent’ by boat or plane, I was transported there by sport, of all sorts. International and European club football taught me plenty about where so many places are.

European players’ names have made me a pretty accurate educated-guesser about people’s ethnic/national backgrounds, which is a valuable life skill (at least in quizzes). Most British soccer sides are now European teams anyway in terms of personnel, so if you support one of those, you shouldn’t have any problem backing Europe.

Travel truly broadens the mind, even if you’re only there via television or radio (or the internet now). The Brexit ‘debate’ and vote may have fuelled anti-European sentiments, so all the more reason to show support for the blue, starry flag. However, if parochialism and negativity are more your bag, then I don’t want my fellow Dungannonion Darren Clarke to lose as European captain. 

In truth, I love Europe and anything that encourages the various nations to work - and play - together is fine by me. International sport walks a tightrope, balancing between promoting friendship and also emphasising the differences between people who just happen to be born or brought up or merely live in different places.

The Ryder Cup is a rarity in bringing nations together, as the Lions do in rugby. Admittedly, one of the factors to unite the states of Europe, at least among supporters, may be a negative one, in the form of antipathy towards the opposition. But supporting Europe in the Ryder Cup doesn’t have to be an excuse for anti-Americanism. It’s sport, not politics.

Anyway, Americans are rather like Dubs, at least in this respect: the idea of them en masse may be unappealing, with an expectation of loudness and cockiness, but when you meet them on an individual basis, most of them are very likeable. The more annoying types do seem to congregate around golf greens, admittedly, although I can hardly complain about such boorish behaviour.

So let’s out-shout the ‘You’re the man!’/‘You Ess Eh?’ brigade - the chant over the next few days has to be: ‘You're up! You're up! You're up!’

 

Saturday's All-Ireland final replay between Dublin and Mayo has interrupted the progress of county club championships 

IT’LL be slightly strange if the case for doing away with inter-county Championship replays is made stronger by that dramatic draw in the All-Ireland SFC final.

However, there seems to be a distinct lack of buzz about Saturday’s football final replay. Of course, maybe it would be different if I were living in Dublin or Mayo, or supported either county, but there’s little widespread sense of excitement, more a feeling of ‘Shouldn’t this be done and dusted?’

Traditionalists may be conflicted: their view has always been that an All-Ireland title should not be decided in extra-time, but they also want the club scene to have its place in the calendar protected. Most minds have certainly turned towards the clubs.

Perhaps extra-time is the answer, rather than the inter-county scene taking up extra time when clubs could be getting more attention.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Golf