Peter Dobereiner: All In The Mind, 1992

I never really had an all time hero golfer. My hero was the writer Peter Dobereiner. He left too soon in 1996, and I wish that he was still here, because no one can ever write about golf as well as him, and I wonder what he would have made of Tiger’s reign, and the new generation coming up. Here is one of his pieces.

“How do you feel when you hear a professional golfer announce that he simply must take a break for a month or so because he has played for three straight weeks?

“I can scarce forebear to burst into tears of sympathy for the poor chap.How incredibly sad in this age of enlightenment that any human being should have to endure three solid weeks of living in five star hotels, being ferried about in courtesy limousines, playing a leisurely eighteen holes a day and getting paid obscenely extravagant amounts of money for it all.

“Just imagine the scene 2,000 feet below ground in the Welsh valleys where Taffy Jones, cramped in a two foot seam, is hacking at the coal face with his pick, soaked in his own sweat in the foetid heat.

”Why are you sobbing, Taff?”

”I was just thinking about those poor bloody golfers having to play three, even four weeks in a row before they can take off for a month’s fishing. It’s the sheer inhumanity of it. I can’t help myself crying when I think about the affront to the dignity of man to have to earn a living in those appalling conditions”.

”Yes, yes I know that it is the mental strain of playing top level competitive golf that makes it necessary for the superstars to take off for Barbados at frequent intervals. The reason I know is that I was present for the press interview when a top golfer railed at the assembled company that we did not know, that we could never know, the pressures involved in championship golf.

“I glanced around the room and identified among my colleagues a commando who had survived the Normandy beaches, two wartime pilots, one RAF one Navy, a guardsman who had been right through the desert campaign in World War II and a retired professional boxing champion. The irony of the situation prompted a moment of idle speculation about whether the historian Sir Walter Simpson, might not have had a point when he wrote that excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect.

“He went further and suggested that a stunted intellect was a prerequisite for good golf, saying in The Art Of Golf published in 1892 that”the more fatuously vacant the mind is, the better for play. It has been observed that absolute idiots play steadiest. An uphill game does not make them press, nor victory within their grasp render them careless. Alas! We cannot all be idiots. Next to the idiotic, the dull, unimaginative mind is best for golf. In a professional competition I would prefer to back the sallow, dull looking fellow player than any more eager looking fellow.

”I would take issue with Sir Walter when he bemoans the fact that we cannot all be idiots. For myself I have no problems at all in turning into a raving halfwit on the golf course . And I have observed that many great statesmen have this same faculty. Indeed what sets the professional apart from the amateur, far more than any disparity in skill, is the pro’s ability to retain his sanity while playing this daft game.

”But is it true that the golfer who is as thick as two planks has an advantage ober rivals who are less intellectually challenged? The evidence is by no means conclusive.

Bobby Jones was an intellectual giant as well as being my nominee for the greatest golfer of all time.. Furthermore he had a highly imaginative and creative mind, thereby challenge another of Simpson’s conclusiins “the poetic temperament is the worst for golf.

Peter Thomson could have succeeded at whatever he set his mind to, hence the pressure put upon him to go into politics. The fact that he did not endorses the high intelligence of the man. Tom Watson, who tied Thomson’s five Open championships probably equals him in weight and quality of grey matter.

Jack Nicklaus would wince and snort with indignation if you described him as an intellectual, but the reason he became the most successful golfer in the history if the game owed as much, or more  to a well-disciplined as a good swing.

No doubt there are plenty of golfers in the current top 100 of the world  rankings who do not have to be reminded by their caddies to put up their umberellas when it rains, But there are some players today who think PR simply represents the first two letters in prat, who clearly believes that they do not need the media any more.

That is a rash assumption. And those who have declared war against the communicators should think again, because they are embarked on a suicide mission. Anyone who thinks he can win such a war simply proves Sir Walter’s point.

 

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