Sunday 19 November 2017

Legend Jones puts Pavin's army tactics to shame

Sean Diffley

Back in 1922, when professional golfers were not even admitted to the clubhouses -- among other humbling dismissals -- the gregarious, larger-than-life American Walter Hagen won the British Open.

When he was handed his winner's cheque he grandiosely handed the cheque to his caddie, a gesture that lives on among the notable legends of the game.

It is not true, of course, that Hagen was the first American to win the British Open. The previous year another American, Jock Hutchison, had accomplished the feat but pocketed his cheque, tipped his hat to his lords and masters and went off home.

All in total contrast to 1930 when Bobby Jones won the British Open and Amateur and the American Open and Amateur in that remarkable Grand Slam when he was adopted by the Royal & Ancient and all their adherents as the ultimate in veneration. He was, of course, an amateur, a lawyer in his native Atlanta and, mostly, a weekend golfer.

When Jones died, that legendary journalist Alistair Cooke wrote: "What we are left with in the end is a forever young, impeccably courteous and decent man with a private ironical view of life who, to the great and good fortune of people who saw him, happened to play the great game with more magic and more grace than anyone before or since."

There are differing private ironical views of life, I suppose, as we contemplate the proceedings at Celtic Manor.

Corey Pavin, the American team captain is, it would seem, very different to Jones.

A large proportion of American professional players are avowedly conservative and Pavin, on past experience and on his preparations in Wales, is hewn out of the same rock. That, no doubt, was why he was made captain.

Remember those disgraceful performances at the Ryder Cup in Kiawah Island in 1991?

Pavin, resplendent in military cap, led the winning American team and the frenzied spectators in a militant celebration much in homage to the troops in Desert Storm.

Now, two decades later on the green pastures of Celtic Manor, Pavin brings in a fighter pilot, Major Dan Rooney "not really as a motivational speech, but a little awareness of what is happening around the world and how, in a military sense, the team unit is very important". But delicately, he refrained from referring directly to Iraq and Afghanistan.

But for honest sportsmanship, or should that be sportswomanship, look to the Irish women's cricket team, who are on their way to South Africa on Monday for the ICC Women's Cricket Challenge, where their opponents will include such notable teams as South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka.

The Irish are ranked ninth in the world and hope to improve on that as the women's game is flourishing in Ireland. In fact, as we know, woman's sport is stronger here than ever before: Katie Taylor, athletes in hurdles and walking, all world ranking.

And none wear military caps or other inappropriate insignia.

Irish Independent

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