Wednesday 23 January 2019

Switching on to ups and downs of sport's winners and losers

Gary Nicklaus Jr salutes his hole-in-one during the Par 3 contest at the 2018 Masters
Gary Nicklaus Jr salutes his hole-in-one during the Par 3 contest at the 2018 Masters

John Masterson

Sport has been having a bad time recently with the Belfast trial exposing a world that does not usually receive such scrutiny. The evidence displayed an attitude to sex and to women that left most people disgusted. It is too soon yet to know what way that particular dust will settle.

Then there were the appalling scenes of the Liverpool fans attacking the Manchester City bus. It was a while since I had thought about football hooliganism but it seems to be alive and well. And don't even start me on Conor McGregor and yet another bus, though in his case I am never sure how much of the motivation is free publicity at which he is a past master.

Sport is one of those things that keeps live TV live. It just wouldn't be the same to watch a recording of the recent Grand Slam. Twice recently I was rewarded for keeping the box turned on.

Both served as a reminder of the good things about sport.

The first was Ronaldo's overhead kick which left Zinedine Zidane awestruck, and he has seen a few things in his time. It also was applauded by the Juventus fans who knew they had seen something remarkable and recognised it in a sportsmanlike way. The way it should be.

It was the family day out at the Masters Par 3 'tournament'

in Augusta that took the biscuit. First of all, Tony Finau goes mad celebrating after a hole in one, goes over on his ankle, and we squirm as he puts his ankle back into position in front of us. Thankfully he was able to play heavily strapped up, and play well, in the tournament proper.

But it was the elder lemons that served as the backdrop for a sporting moment that will win no awards but will stay with everyone who saw it for ever.

The Par 3 is a family event with children, wives and girlfriends carrying the bag and hitting the occasional shot. Three of golf's greatest ever players, Gary Player (82), Jack Nicklaus (78) and the youthful Tom Watson (68) were holding their own with the young guns.

They were getting birdies with monotonous regularity and Watson went on the win the 9 hole competition with a total of six birdies.

This must give hope to OAPs everywhere. The other two geriatrics were not far behind.

Jack has 22 grandchildren and most have caddied for him over the years. The magic moment was saved for Jack's caddie grandson, 15-year-old Gary Nicklaus Jnr. On the ninth Jack handed the youngster a club.

He took two very deliberate practice swings, stepped up and hit a good shot about 10ft past the hole. The ball trickled backwards and on its dying roll fell into the hole. A hole in one and the place erupted. There were hugs and kisses and backslaps. And tears.

The proud grandfather, who happens to have won 18 Majors (Player has nine and Watson eight) was probably never happier on a golf course as he was with grandson and granddaughter Nina that day. Which just leaves my night in with Rory.

Roll on 2019.

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