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 At the 19th

Teeing up the questions...and answers

All his adult life Clive Agran has been hoping to be interviewed by someone other than a market-researcher carrying a clipboard. Having finally run out of patience waiting for another journalist to approach him, here he speaks his mind openly and honestly in a world exclusive interview with one of this magazine’s most respected and inquisitive reporters, Clive Agran.

CA: As a working journalist for over 40 years, you must have conducted hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews. How does it now feel to be answering as well as asking the questions?
: Strangely enough, it doesn’t feel all that different. But I’ve often felt when interviewing people that I could have given much better answers and perhaps they have felt they could have posed much better questions. But I like your opener as it’s almost certainly the question I would have kicked off with.

CA: Let’s turn to golf now. Would it be fair to say you’ve hadyet another extraordinarily disappointing year?
Disappointing? Yes, I think that fairly sums it up. The last 15 years or so have all been extremely disappointing in that I’ve begun them hoping to turn things around but have failed dismally.

CA: Why is that, do you think?
Oh, I don’t know. Golf’s a very delusional game in that we like to think we’re improving all the time but, for the overwhelming majority of us, the truth is we’re not. I keep trying different things and still believe one day I might finally hit upon ‘the secret’ but the evidence suggests I peaked rather a long time ago.

CA: You mean when you got down to single-figures?
Yes. And if I might anticipate your next question as to what happened subsequently, I think there were a couple of things. First, I got the yips and, having fulfilled one of my main ambitions in golf, I might sub-consciously have eased up.

CA: We’ll return to your dreadful putting in a moment but are you truly expecting me to believe you ‘eased up’ simply because you finally made it to single-figures?
You can believe what you like but I think I did in a not dissimilar reaction to a pro winning a major and then, having fulfilled the dream, easing up and more or less disappearing.

CA: Correct me if I’m wrong but are you seriously equating achieving a single-figure handicap to winning a major?
CA: That’s precisely what I’m doing.

CA: OK, since we’re now on the subject, didn’t you once say you thought you had it in you to win at least one major?
I did say that and still believe I can. Even though time is evidently not on my side, I still dream of lifting the claret jug or donning a green jacket. Frankly, the US Open doesn’t appeal much and the USPGA even less. For me it’s the claret jug, green jacket or nothing.

CA: In other words ‘nothing’.
I may have to settle for that...but you never know.

CA: If you do have to settle for nothing, will that mean your life has been, at least partially, something of a failure?
[Sobbing gently]. In part I must confess it will have been. Without even one Open Championship or one Masters to show for all those hours of practice will be hugely disappointing, yes. But I’ve still a little time.

CA: I can see you’re upset. But to look at it another way. Isn’t it extraordinary that a very average golfer such as you, with limited ability, can somehow scratch a living from the game?
In a way you’re right and I do feel extremely privileged to be able to play some of the greatest courses in the world.

CA: Don’t you feel uncomfortable hacking it round these magnificent courses and writing about them as if you knew what you were talking about? To be blunt, what the hell do you know about a great hole when you can’t even be sure of hitting the green from 50 yards?
There’s no need to be offensive. You don’t have to have studied at the Royal School of Music to appreciate a Beethoven symphony or be a great chef to enjoy a delicious meal. In my job, it’s more important to be able to communicate than draw a 5-iron from a downhill lie, although it would be nice to do the latter occasionally… and intentionally.

CA: May we now talk about what I know is a very sore issue, your putting?
CA: I’d rather we didn’t.

CA: You have developed what might politely be regarded as an eccentric grip and putting stroke. Given that they evidently don’t work, why do you bother?
Putting for me is a damage-limitation exercise. With my modified claw grip, all too infrequently referred to as the ‘Agran Style’, I can at least be fairly confident of getting the ball in the hole in three strokes or thereabouts, whereas with what you might call a conventional grip, I can take four or, on an exceptionally bad day, five putts, which is unacceptable in someone with genuine major aspirations.

CA: Finally, you’ll be 65 in December. Isn’t it about time you either got a proper job or simply retired gracefully?
Retire? Why, so that I can play golf and travel? No, so long as the readers demand articles from me, I shall endeavour to keep them amused.

CA: It’s been an honour.
My pleasure entirely.

Issue 121

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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