Fair play, discipline and courage.
My experience of golf captaincy.As a lifelong fan of sport I happen to believe that this is one of the simplest ways of bridging wide divides. It is important to all of us and by this I mean men, women and children. Apart from being a fantastic way to exercise, it teaches us many different concepts of life. Amongst these fair play and discipline and courage.
One of the things I like best about sport and this is specially true with Golf is that you have a set of rules. It sets a standard of rules which all players must follow and it brooks no arguments of these. Simply put, everybody knows where they stand. Of course this never means that you are not going to get people who try and breech these rules. However if it so happens that you do something wrong, out comes the rules book and there is no compromising.
This is just my small story of when I was Golf Captain and some of the things that I tried to do for my club
A good walk spoilt?
Health and Exercise
I had been living in South Africa
for twelve years before returning to my home farm in Zimbabwe. Although I had always been more of a cricket player and just the occasional golfer, whilst I had been away I became more focused on golf. By and large I had stopped playing cricket and golf was now my main interest. Somebody once said that Golf was a good walk spoilt and I was never able to understand this because as far as I am concerned it combines the pleasure of a good walk and some additional exercise. Notwithstanding that sometimes you are on a course with breathtaking views and more importantly you have a challenge and a chance to meet and play with different people and forge friendships.Please remember that although Golf is primarily an individual game we are not talking about professional golfers
here but about a club mainly for amateurs and those who just love the game. Despite that you still tried to install a competitive attitude amongst members.
A good walk spoilt?
This is not a piece about teaching you about Golf, to understand some of what I need to say you should already be aware of the niceties of Golf.In my opinion one of the great things about the game, is it’s handicapping system. What this simply means is that a professional golfer will have a handicap of 0 or scratch and generally speaking in most clubs men will go up to 24 and women to 36.
As amateurs therefore you can have a member at scratch and another at 24 and sometimes this can cause problems. Furthermore, there are many systems which compensate for this like Stableford, which is just a system of points, so that between the differences in handicap, members of different capabilities can still play and have a good game. In other words, I think I can take out Tiger Woods playing stableford. There is no other sport that I can think of where this is possible, ie. if you were a club tennis player, you would have zero chance of taking out Roger Federer.
Subsequently, it is very important that your club handicapper stays on top of things. This was brought back to me forcibly in my first game on arriving back home. It was a sponsored day and the format was individual stableford and seeing as I had 44 points was quietly confident sprucing myself up in the showers, that I was home and dry. To my horror at prizegiving, it was 3rd. on 46 points and I think the winner had over 50. I was appalled and started bleating big time and all my old friends couldn’t understand why I was getting so upset.
Why are you so upset?
Fairness a priority.
Because it’s nonsense man, don’t you realise that a pro would have to shoot the greatest score of all time and even then he would be hard pushed to get those type of points. I’m telling you that at my club in Barberton in SA if at any time you got 36 points your handicap was immediately cut by two. Otherwise they would do your handicap once a month and it was just to stop this type of thing happening. I was ranting and raving by this time and almost frothing at the mouth and everybody was enjoying themselves and passing comments like ” gee, it’s like you have never been away, still whining I see.” Ha ha ha.Anyway the next few sponsored games I played it was still the same with some horrific points taking the cake. I never stopped whining but now some of the better players were starting to listen and many were agreeing with me. Their gripe was that whenever it was a sponsored day it was always individual stableford and this left them with no chance and why can’t they ever change the format.Lo and behold at the A.G.M.I was elected Captain and now came the hard part of making things happen.
Beautiful golf courses.
What to do?
As it transpired the handicapper was an old lady who no longer played, but was to kind hearted to say that she had had enough of it. No sooner than I had visited her, she was delighted to hand over this onerous task.
A stream runs through it.
So now we had a new young women who was prepared to do this and mad keen she was to.
Our club was a rural club and did not have enough members to warrant salaries for it’s elected officials, despite the fact that we had a big member force. Considering we also had Tennis, Cricket, Rugby, Squash, Bowls, Snooker and a large stage and hall for our variety concerts, most of the work was done voluntarily apart from paid up staff members, consisting mainly of barmen, cooks and groundspeople.
Within a short space of time the handicap problem was resolved and between myself and the handicapper we were the two most unpopular people in the club and mutiny was in the air.
Therefore I decided to break the cliques.
Working to ease friction
Essentially, what this basically boils down to is that the better players don’t want to play with those not so good. Men are more prone to this than women, but at least with the girls they occasionally will play with the lesser players. As a rural club I had had enough, as in my opinion it causes friction and breaks club spirit.What I did and it had been tried before but had gradually worn away was to assign people numbers as they entered the club. These were then put in a hat and then I drew them out and you had to play with whoever I had drawn. Finished and final.
Did I cheat?
I BEG YOUR PARDON, almost certainly, YES. I used my discretion, if I happened to draw two numbers with people who obviously were at loggerheads. However, by the same token I also often made them play with each other, on the principle that it takes all kinds.
Was it popular? Not at first, but once the point had been made and all the people most affected had made their resentments known to me. I was able to say to them, that that is the way it was going to be. However if they stuck by me, then once a month they could play with whomsoever they felt like. Notwithstanding, that I only enforced this on Wednesday’s, which was our main playing and sponsored day. The rest of the time they where left to their own devices, so in reality, I wasn’t asking all that much. Sorry, enforcing that.
There were many other obstacles, amongst them getting the men to play with the women. By using the above system I was killing two birds with one stone. Oddly enough the women were mad keen on this and once you have them on side, apart from the long faces from the men, it’s surprising how fast things happen. Then again it only takes one man to win a prize, largely due to his hacker women partner and change happens. It often surprises me how much everyone likes a prize.
There’s a buzz.
Making things happen
A funny thing happened, from starting off as so unpopular this had largely disappeared and more and more people were joining the club. Some of the lady members were giving free lessons to friends from both sexes who had never picked up a club before and encouraging them to play on the sponsored day.Meanwhile between myself and the committee comprising of Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Groundsman, and Ladies Captain, we had an official sponsor for every Wednesday throughout the year. We were improving the course and arranging Professionals to come out on Wednesday mornings to coach the kids and then we could show them in the afternoon that if they didn’t pull up their socks club members would take them out on the course!
Don’t get in here.
One of these Pro’s had a band, so let’s have a bit of a dance and sing along after the prize-giving. The club was starting to buzz.
Other organisations wanted to book the course for their special days.
We tried to think of things like organising an inter-schools day where members could invite their old school buddies and we get sponsors to host the day and the winning team (old school )get a prize. It gained momentum and we arranged it so that it coincided with Zimbabwe playing Australia in the World Cup cricket and we had satellite coverage and as it was in England the difference in time zones meant it started in the evening after we had finished playing golf.
Guess what Zimbabwe nearly won and by doing this got into the Super-Six of the competition. What a night we had.
Many other things.
Courage and Honour.
Of course it is a never ending battle and the biggest fight I had was in getting children allowed to play in the closed championships. This almost tore the club in two and I had people from the Chairman down threatening to resign if I allowed this. My argument was that if they are playing off the men’s tee and have an official men’s handicap then I don’t care if you are 5 years old or 125 years old, you are entitled to play.Eventually, one of the older members took me aside one night and told me that if no-one was prepared to play with the kids in question. Then if I could arrange the draw so that they played with him, he would be happy to do this.What a gentleman and it took a lot of courage for him to do this. As it turned out all went smoothly and the whole sorry saga was soon forgotten as Mugabe sent his thugs onto all our farms.One more thing has always stood in my mind. When one of our Lady members was struck by cancer and after intensive chemotherapy and losing all her hair amongst other things. She put on a scarf and continued playing. Amazing sometimes, how small people are such big people.
In my opinion, it once again shows the benefits that people get from playing sport and how this can sometimes lead them to do, amazing things.
In my case, I just want to add that I am profoundly deaf and I did all these things, including making all the speeches and everything else. You can too.
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