Tuesday 23 January 2018

Ryder Cup's raw emotion hits the spot for Smyth

Ian Poulter led by example throughout the Ryder Cup, inspiring his team-mates.
Ian Poulter led by example throughout the Ryder Cup, inspiring his team-mates.
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

THE Ryder Cup -- passion, pride, tears of joy and sadness. Core emotions exposed to the world.

When you see Bubba Watson urging the crowd to hoot and holler while he hits his shot on the first tee, and Ian Poulter doing the same, it's not golf as we know it.

This is the shadow side of the game coming to the fore and it's barely legal in terms of the core values of conduct in the game.

But that's the very reason European Tour stalwart Des Smyth loves the Ryder Cup.

He's happy to see the lid lifted on the placid facade of golf in favour of on-the-edge, raucous and raw competitiveness -- for one week only.


Smyth believes that the emotional depths of professional golf churn just as intensely within its exponents as with sportspeople in GAA, soccer, rugby or any other sport.

It's just that golfers have to keep their feelings and emotions buttoned up in order to ply their trade successfully week in, week out -- until Ryder Cup week arrives.

Then the gloves are off and it's all systems go.

"It's the one time in golf when the whole drama is exposed, when the world can see all the excitement, all the tension, whereas normally in an individual event, it's all going on inside the guys' heads," said Smyth. "The crowd that follow golf understand and enjoy it, but for the average sports follower who finds golf boring, this is the one chance they have to see the emotions that are going on all the time under the surface in golf.

"Maybe rugby players can't see it or tennis players can't see it when they watch normal tournament golf, but the Ryder Cup takes the cover off," he said.

Smyth has performed with distinction on Tour since he turned professional in 1974.

He still holds the record as the oldest player to win a regular Tour event -- 48 years and 34 days when winning the 2001 Madeira Island Open -- and continues to win on the Senior Tour, following a successful stint on the US Champions Tour.

Smyth knows the Ryder Cup from the inside, as he played on the first all-European team at the Greenbrier in 1979 and again at Walton Heath in 1981.

The Drogheda man would have been a worthy captain of the 2006 Ryder Cup team at The K Club, but the absence of a Major on his CV probably tipped the balance in favour of Ian Woosnam.

Smyth had to settle for a vice-captaincy that year and did a great job, as did all the back-room team.

Normally, golf requires a cool head, control of emotions and a balanced temperament at any level if success is to be achieved.

In the pro game, hotheads, club-throwers and the self-indulgent don't survive very long or make much money.

"We're lucky that for this one week, the cover's taken back and we're exposing it because of the team factor, because of the nationalistic factor, the European flag and the American flag," added Smyth.


"And that's why it's important. We don't want the nastiness, but we do want the emotion. We want the fierce competition. We want to show everyone what golf can throw up.

"The desire to win is just huge. It's like the All-Ireland final in terms of intensity for the players. These guys are so focused on trying to win as a team.

"The wonderful thing is, it's the only time in golf that you get this atmosphere, the crowd going crazy.

"Of course, there are niggles between the players at times. There is fierce competition, but it's only as long as the match lasts.

"It's just like punching your brother on the pitch if you're playing football and he's on the other team, but afterwards you laugh about it."

Of course, Europe ended up laughing joyfully, while the US team and captain Davis Love III got the brickbats, but they'll be ready to do battle again in 2014.

Meanwhile, on the local scene, the ILGU Miele All-Ireland Fourball Championship semi-finals and final will be hosted by Westmanstown on October 13-14.

The four finalists are, Ballycastle (Northern winners), Dublin City (Eastern), Portumna (Western) and Clonmel (Southern).

Irish Independent

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