Redundant Prodigies

Ivan Morris

4 July 1999: Sergio Garcia holds the Murphy's Irish Open trophy above his head after winning the event played in Dublin, Ireland. Mandatory Andrew Redington /Allsport

The physical side of golf has reached unheard of levels. Golf is no longer an old man’s sport. A 20-year old today is unbelievably strong in an applied way. Biomechanical coaches know exactly how to ‘build’ a scientifically proven golfer with no guesswork involved.

The consequence of being biomechanically analysed to the nth degree means golfers are trained more efficiently while technology has spawned a less sophisticated game involving less skill. Boys (and girls) who are given the tools at 15 are ready to overpower golf courses by the time they are 20.

Nowadays, golf is looked upon as ‘athletics’ and we are seeing a pattern of younger players rising to the top sooner; careers are becoming shorter with faster turnovers in World No. 1s the end result.

There’s always a downside. A 20-year olds can become unhealthily rich far too soon. It’s not that young players were not winners before. Bob Jones, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Phil Mickelson all won in their early 20’s but they were prodigies. Top golfers are so young now that the word ‘prodigy’ is redundant.

In days gone by champions hardly had such luxury. Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen ran themselves ragged and flew in ‘dodgy’ mail planes in order to make a living. In his efforts to make ends meet, Gary Player has racked up more air miles than a long-haul pilot.

Getting into pro golf to pursue the money trail is the wrong thing to do. It may be the reason why so many pros give the impression of living lives of misery and boredom. Perhaps somebody should have told them that golf is like a marriage – if you go into it for money and not for love you’ll end up unhappy.

Watching golfers slowly come of age, mature, peak and then begin to slip – over a generational timespan – has made golf a unique sport for the dedicated onlooker. With competitive careers rarely hitting their peak before 35, the fans used to really get to know their heroes. Without that familiarity will fans maintain an interest?


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