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 PETER ALLISS
 On the Air

Money, media and manners
Tiger Woods and his former caddie, Steve Williams, formed a formidable partnership for many years but the author was not surprised when the relationship ended

As we move forward into 2012, I look back on the Alliss family and their connections with golf and their interest in a myriad of other sporting pastimes. Between us we’ve seen the whole evolution of the game since the early 1900s and throughout those years we’ve kept an eye on the changing patterns and fortunes of sport. Who would have thought as recently as 40 years ago so many sportsmen and women would be able to earn fortunes out of their particular game?

Taking an overview, it seems ludicrous that some football players in this country – and basketball, baseball and football players in the United States – earn millions a year. I know it’s a short life but to many it’s obscene and yet the general public, many of whom won’t earn in a lifetime what these people earn in a month, do not seem jealous. Gangs are not roaming the streets attacking stadiums because the players are becoming millionaires.

This phenomenon has grown much bigger than I ever thought it might but with that comes more exposure, through radio, television and newsprint. That’s not all milk and honey. When I was playing, it was alarming when a reporter wrote something detrimental about one of the players, the venue, or the prize-money. It simply wasn’t done. In those days, they generally only wrote about the game. These days it certainly doesn’t pay to get on the wrong side of the media.

My world has changed dramatically. Some say “Oh, that Alliss, he’s a dinosaur – he belongs to the Colonel Blimp brigade”…pink gins in the ‘Men Only’ bar and no women walking past the window of the clubhouse! I can assure you I am not like that but I do think the world has gone mad when Gordon Ramsay isn’t able to prepare an omelette without using every swearword in the book. How different from Rick Stein, but then he learnt his trade in Padstow, just between St Enodoc and Trevose golf courses, where good manners reign supreme. Years ago they used to talk about watching your Ps and Qs. Nowadays you’ve got to watch the whole alphabet.

Of course, it’s not only in terms of the media that golf has changed. Take caddies. There have been some wonderful partnerships – Tip Anderson and Arnold Palmer, Jimmy Dickinson and Jack Nicklaus – but nearly all these associations end in tears. This being so, I wasn't surprised when Steve Williams and Tiger Woods parted company last year. The parting was not amicable, although Williams should bless the day their paths crossed. He has earned millions of dollars during their partnership – hard to believe when I recall that my caddie, Little Jim, was the fourth-best paid caddie on tour in the 1960s. I paid him £10 a week from March until the end of October, plus bonuses if we did well. Only Bob Charles', Peter Thomson's and Kel Nagle's caddies were paid more. Now caddies have become after-dinner speakers, have advertising contracts and so on. But, despite what Mr Williams may seem to want us to believe, they do not hit the shots. Mind you, if he ever decided to write a book telling the whole truth, he could put me down for 20 copies.

And as we moved into 2012, the PGA Tour boss, Tim Finchem, was bemoaning the absence of so many top names from his seasonopening event. What could he do about it, he was asked? “We could ask players to stop having babies and stop falling off paddle boards and stepping on coral and falling down on snowboards and getting hurt,” he replied. The latter was the fate of Paul Casey. I was saddened to see that a man who over the last few years has suffered more than most from injuries, some of them self-inflicted, had gone and done it again – this time through snowboarding.

This is not the first instance of a golf professional getting injured because he’s been cavorting about in the snow in some exotic part of the world, but will they never learn? Back in the dark ages, when I played I had an insurance policy that was going to take care of me if I got injured, but there were certain things it did not cover. For example, extreme sports were taboo, so skiing, motor racing, motor cycling, etc were on the no-go list.

Some people may be thinking to themselves, “Oh for goodness sake, Casey is only a young man, he’s got to have some fun, he’s got to have a life, he’s got to have experiences.” Yes, all well and good, but he is earning his living – a very handsome one – as a professional golfer. God forbid this accident could put an end to his career. Let’s hope he recovers and has learned a lesson.

March 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 






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