“Great to be back in Turkey,” Eddie Pepperell tweeted last Wednesday on the eve of round one of the Turkish Airlines Open. “Typically great weather, on a course lined with trees… What more could you want.”
Dare I say, more golf balls, Eddie? For those of you that missed it, the Englishman made the mother of all moving day nosedives on Saturday after getting disqualified for running out of golf balls midway through his third round.
Sadly, the cameras weren’t rolling when Pepperell, playing alongside Martin Kaymer and George Coetzee, dunked anywhere between four and seven balls into the drink at the par-5 fourth hole, his 13th, from the middle of the fairway. Cue Tin Cup comparisons as Pepperell extended his hand to his playing partners in surrender, only where Roy McAvoy was determined to make the carry over water at the final hole of the fictional US Open tournament, Pepperell seemed to use the rules to press the eject button on a miserable afternoon on the fairways at Maxx Royal.
According to playing partner Kaymer, “Eddie just didn’t look right. He was clearly not happy on three as he didn’t putt with his putter on the third hole and putted with his wedge.”
There was even a rumour that the witty Englishman had snapped his flat-stick prior to the drowning but whatever demon possessed Pepperell to cut-short his trip to Turkey, he’s fortunate the cameras had turned a blind eye to the moment of self-destruction.
As Pepperell briefly commented afterwards, “I’m willing to let people say what they want to say. I ran out of golf balls, it was literally that. It’s not happened before, at least not to me.”
Any finger pointing at Pepperell is purely speculation but the evidence is heavily stacked against a rare show of petulance from the outspoken pro. Such a display would fly in the face of the laissez-faire attitude adored by his 120,000 plus Twitter followers. Pepperell has been a breath of fresh air since breaking through on the Tour, his profile so far removed from a culture of media trained clones being churned out by top sports management companies the world over.
“Had to do a drugs test post round today,” he tweeted after day one of the Italian Open in October. “First time I’ve been tested in a good while. Relieved to get it out of the way! Expect GREAT things tomorrow.”
His willingness to express himself fearlessly across public platforms has, for me, done more to shake golf’s stuffy image than any social media campaign initiated by the European Tour in recent times.
Pepperell is an example to young players coming through that you don’t have to compartmentalise your public image and your private one. Golfers taking the step-up to the pro ranks are self-employed businessmen and women after all who, 99 times out of 100, are relying on sponsors to fund the initial stages of their careers. Obviously investors are going to be attracted to scoring averages and other statistics above all else but the person behind the golf swing has to be investable too.
Of course, not everyone can possess a natural charisma ala Pepperell. He writes well and is undeniably funny but signing a professional contract shouldn’t coincide with signing away your personality.
It’s a reflection of the world we live in that people are employed to put words in other people’s mouths; virtual scriptwriters, withdrawn from emotion towing a line to ensure not a syllable can be skewed.
I guess the media are as much to blame as anyone, scrutinising and twisting words to suit a particular agenda. But why bite the hand that feeds you? Are scribes so short-sighted as to incriminate players, often emotionally charged, for simply speaking their mind? People like Pepperell should be applauded for their willingness to speak openly from their platform, not pushed off it for doing so.
Pepperell will probably be fined for his antics on Saturday in Antalya and rightly so but given all the good he’s done for modernising golf’s stuffy image in a short space of time, in my opinion, he deserves a mulligan on this one. If only he had a spare ball to take it.