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Where have all the papers gone?
Thanks to Sky, golf gets a great showing on television, but what a pity it is that when it comes to the print media, the game seems to be running out of words

Sometime ago my son Gary, who was then the head teaching professional at The Belfry, wrote an article for a local magazine bemoaning the fact that very few people actually wrote about golf any more. Dammit, it only seemed a handful of years in the past that every newspaper, let alone the national dailies, had a golf correspondent. Those days have long gone (cost-cutting, I suppose?), but it is a phenomenon very noticeable to people steeped in the game as deeply as is the Alliss family.

This development seems extraordinary to me, especially with the huge efforts made by Sky to promote the game throughout the world. Please remember that I am a BBC man through and through, and have been all my broadcasting life, but you have to be very mean of spirit not to congratulate Sky for producing endless hours (many of them very enjoyable) of coverage of the game, wherever it may be played and whatever gender is on parade.

Do you know what I missed most about the recent general coverage of the European Tour? Although the golf was being played in some exotic places (the Far East, Morocco, etc), the coverage, newspaper-wise, was abysmal. Over the past few months, the newspapers have been totally infatuated with Tiger Woods’ family life, much to the detriment of several golf tournaments. I suppose it reflects the way things are today. The world can’t get enough of reading about what he’s been up to – off the course. Two pretty bland interviews with him on Americans television, to tie in with news of his comeback, rendered the ongoing PGA Tour event a mere sideshow.

The Hassan II Golf Trophy at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam
The Hassan II Golf Trophy at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Morocco attracted at least a bridgeful of spectators and coverage on Sky, but it got a lamentable lack of attention in the British newspapers

Thoughts along these lines struck home particularly when it came to the reporting of the Sunningdale Foursomes, an event which has been held at that club for many years and one which I was privileged and proud to win twice with the same partner, Jean Donald when she was single and Mrs Anderson when she finally tied the knot with dear John.

In those far-off days, at least a quarter of a page of ‘the posh papers’ was given over to reporting the Foursomes. Of course, there were not the present inducements of golf abroad. Playing tournaments in America was very hard work – they didn’t want you. There were one or two events in South Africa, and exhibition matches were played in what was then Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Egypt and Kenya. There were perhaps halfa- dozen tournaments in Australia and New Zealand, played on the most beautiful courses for humble prize-money. That was it.

So it was that the Sunningdale Foursomes heralded the start of a new season. Pretty well every one of the top pros played in it, with the exception of Dai Rees, who didn’t think the allocation of prize-money was fair and felt he could make more money giving a few lessons at his beloved South Herts.

Anyhow, this year the reporting of the event was pathetic. It wasn't until the quarter-finals that I noticed there was a minuscule report in the Daily Telegraph, one of the papers that used to glory in reporting the event.

In some ways I can understand the problems faced by the press – the news online, the worldwide web, twitter, machines barely bigger than a packet of three capable of organising your life. The only thing some of them don't do is make a decent cup of tea!

I hope this does not presage a death rattle for our noble game. Television brilliantly beams pictures into our living rooms but it's the experienced writers who puts flesh on the bones. I suppose that football’s now overwhelming, over-high presence means that golf has been demoted, a game played only by toffs or the newly rich. Now, isn't that a load of rubbish? But I’m afraid it’s a fact in the minds of many.

Not five miles from where I live is the handsome property belonging to Cheryl and Ashley Cole. For the past few weeks, members of the media have gathered at the end of their drive, motorcycle couriers at the ready, just in case one of the inkyfisted voyeurs might get a snap of the ‘bonny lassie’ or her wayward husband. I find it very sad to think they took preference over who won the Sunningdale Foursomes. Still, they call it progress.

(P.S: Since composing this article, my son has left The Belfry and taken up residence as head professional at the Ladbroke Park Golf Club on the south side of Birmingham, where I hope he has a long and happy association. Drop in for a lesson if you get the chance. Tell him Dad sent you!)

May 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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