There’s an expression ‘love is sacrifice,’ and it rings true for professional golf, writes Mike Taylor.
In my four years as press officer of the Sunshine Tour I spent no more than 24 weeks at home in a year. The European Tour media guys get a bit more time off, but us South Africans traveled the same schedule as the pros.
It was definitely a young man’s job, but came with the perks of seeing wonderful places, staying in nice accommodation, and eating well.
It also meant no pets, no miles on my car, missing a few weddings, birthdays, and time with people who meant the most. I’m sure every pro on the local circuit will tell you the same (if they’re being honest).
One thing I learned about travel is this – there’s no bed as good as your own.
Englishman Andy Sullivan, who’ll soon make his Ryder Cup debut, won a trip to space with a hole in one at the 2014 KLM Open. When I chatted to him about it he said something along the lines of ‘It takes five weeks of preparation for the journey, and that’s about the entire time I get off in a year. Basically, I’ll use it when I’ve stopped being a pro.’
Golf’s a tough gig in terms of family and friends, and bringing a wife or girlfriend to the course comes with some unwanted attention, so sharing that time is a difficult. Thomas Aiken’s wife Kate, who is a lovely woman and often carries his bag at local events, must be the most photographed caddy of all time.
It also gets awkward when a significant other gets front-row seats to a professional golf meltdown. Kristen Cooley, girlfriend of European Tour player Justin Walters, once told me after he played a bad round she could only ‘be there for him’ and nothing else.
Being a professional includes the following sacrifices in a year: travel more weeks than not, miss your own space, skip home-cooked meals, stay in a LOT of hotel-casinos, and spend time pleasing other people.
Travelling with family is even more demanding and generally avoided, so it becomes a balancing act between practice and being at home. The better a professional gets, the less time he has and the more jet lag.
World number eight Patrick Reed said on Wednesday: ‘I haven’t had an off-season ever since I’ve been on the PGA Tour.’
Players of the American’s calibre have to make appearances as part of their corporate sponsorships. There are media responsibilities, pro-ams, functions, and practice. so when it comes to a small break from the circuit, they take it with arms wide open.
Last week was a quick breath ahead of the PGA Tour Championship, yet by Tuesday both Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth ‘felt rested.’
Don’t get me wrong – there are huge perks to being a professional golfer on tour and we all dream about that high-flying life.
But it takes a lot of sacrifice.