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This could be the start of a beautiful relationship…

Today is Earth Day; created to be in the Spring for our Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern.  We are to appreciate all that is great in and on this insignificant little rock, orbiting a sub-standard Sun (thank-you Prof. Hawking, get well soon) that we call home.  Well I personally have a lot to be thankful for: my home, my lady, my job, my health, my family and I could go on.  But I want to talk about my thanks to our Sporting Earth, particularly Golf on this occasion.

Firstly I enjoy playing and watching most, if not all, sports – but golf is the sport closest to my heart.  I have never been a great player and would class myself in the “competent” bracket.  I have suffered as a junior at the hands of my peers for being a poor player; not being able to play some days as no-one would play with me.  But I have also enjoyed playing on some of the best courses that are on offer, not least the very “home of golf”.  It is not your sympathy that I am after, I just wanted you to know that I have seen or done just about all of it.     I watched most of this years Masters at the always jaw-dropping Augusta National.  The amazing scenery, the lightening greens, the world’s best players gathered to battle nature and each other.  However, I believe that Augusta is one of the things that will always give golf and certain people in the game decidedly ugly element.    The elitism that is epitomised by the Augusta National is one of the major problems in golf.  “Normal” people 120px-masterstournamentlogo_svglike you and I are not able to play courses like these, including the Loch Lomond Golf Club on the Bonny Banks.  I was turned away at the gate, not even allowed to see the club house let alone the fairways.  To play these courses you must be invited to do so by an existing member who in turn is invited to join.  Particularly in Augustas’ case is the racism and sexism that I believe still exists at the heart of many clubs.  Vile as it is in 2009 that these things exist anywhere in the world, let alone at the core of one of the most popular sports on our Earth and at one of its most prestigious events.  Augusta, under great pressure, finally “allowed” a black member in 1990.  To my knowledge there are still no women members.

In the real world of golf it is rare to see this level of exclusion in a golf club; however this elitism and “boys club” feel is still around most corners, and this perception, particulary to newcomers to the game and those not profficiant and skilled at the sport, will continually be a turn-off to me and many many more.  This is something that needs to be looked at and addressed at the echilons of the game if it is to continue to grow and flourish, particularly in these uncertain times.

All this aside, I was glued to the screen throughout the four rounds in America.  To see the slightly aged, un-fashionable and bulky figure of Kenny Perry lead the rest of the pack was refreshing and exciting.  Chad Campbell and eventual winner Angel Cabrera showing that us with a slightly larger waist can still achieve great things.  The added cameo of Big Phil and Tiger going toe-to-toe for 18 spell-binding holes made it one of the best Masters in years.   We have 3 more majors to look forward to this year, the original and best will be visiting Turnberry, with Padraig looking for 3 in a row and Tiger looking to claim back what he sees as his Open and edge ever closer to Jack’s haul.

Thanks for reading through my rants and personal traumas in golf this time; I’d like to leave you with another fantastic sport and a fantastic example of a footballer:  Paul Aaron Scholes.  600 games for Manchester United.  15 years(and counting) at the same scholes4_185x185_526709bclub is amazing commitment, especially in the modern game.  A local boy when he started, and along side Ryan Giggs (699 apps.) they are the only example any young person should look at when wanting to aspire to reach the top.  Modest, humble, hard working, skilled and so dedicated they are still at the very pinacle of their sport well into their thirties.