Turkey dinners might divide opinion, but golf certainly shouldn’t

Mark McGowan
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Portmarnock Golf Club - 15th Hole (Blue)

It’s that time of year again. Whilst rafters of Irish turkeys are enjoying the heyday of young adolescence in blissful ignorance – apart from those in Co. Monaghan – half of their American cousins have already been stuffed, draped in streaky bacon, roasted, basted and carved.

Turkey might be a meat that divides opinion, and the thought of having it twice in a month probably induces shudders in many households, but not in mine. Much as I like to mock much of American culture, this is not one of those occasions. But I know you didn’t come here for the culinary musings of a curmudgeonly golf writer.

In fact, if you came for the curmudgeonly musings of a curmudgeonly golf writer, you’re even in the wrong place, because in the spirit of the season, I’m here to give thanks.

Being Irish is something we’ll often bemoan as we’re huddled under parasols, our already pale skin looking like we’ve been accidentally spray painted with chalk, as our olive-skinned European neighbours bask in unobstructed sun loungers without fear of ending up like a blushing lobster.

But we’ve really not got it bad, and nowhere is our good fortune better reflected than in the game of golf.

Sure, we might get more than our fair share of rain – and I live in a county that I’m convinced is Ireland’s wettest – but rainfall is a precious commodity in large parts of the world, and the requisite moisture to maintain large green areas often comes at huge financial and moralistic expense.

With the sky as our sprinkler system, our golf courses can be kept in pristine lushness at a fraction of the cost of those in our favoured holiday destinations. Additionally, the natural terrain of much of our coastline provided a canvas upon which the great architectural artists of the late 19th and early 20th century could easily put the finishing strokes to.

Chances are that if you can see the sea, you’re within an hour’s drive of one of golf’s genuine masterpieces. My commiserations to inland dwellers who may have to add a full thirty minutes to the journey, but we’re all spoiled for choice.

And golf, as a game, is very accessible here. Having lived in Belgium and Slovakia at various stages, whenever the fact that I played golf came up in conversation, it was usually followed by a cocked head, a bemused expression, and some sort of sarcastic comment about the fact that I hid my wealth extremely well.

I am, of course, not wealthy. At least not in the conventional sense. I have health and happiness, which many would consider the trappings of true wealth, but I drive an 18-year-old car and – as some of my friends suggest – wear 18-year-old clothing. That’s not to be confused with the clothing of an 18-year-old, by the way.

But golf is the preserve of the wealthy in most parts of the world. Here, for the price of a three-course meal, a few pints and a taxi home, most of us could take up some form of membership at a nearby club. Locals can take up memberships at even the island’s finest clubs for the price that tourists pay for a four-ball.

Yeah, we’ve got it good alright.

But as good as we’ve got it domestically, in the professional game, we’ve got it even better.

That we’ve produced five major champions in the last 15 years, amassing a combined total of 10 of the most prestigious titles in the game is something we’ve started to take for granted. Scotland – our nearest neighbour, our kindred spirits, and our closest competitor in terms of weather, landscape, and mentality – haven’t produced one since 1999. Wales not since 1991.

That’s not to belittle our Celtic brothers, it’s purely a reminder that we are punching so far above our weight. As did they and were it not for an unfortunate bounce or two depriving Colin Montgomerie at inopportune times, the Scots could’ve punched much higher.

We’ve got Leona Maguire as the 11th ranked female player in the world – and highest European – winning on the LPGA Tour, contending with regularity, and being the unquestioned heroine of Europe’s Solheim Cup winning team. We’ve got Seamus Power Seamus Power winning multiple times on the PGA Tour, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke winning majors on the Champions Tour, and Shane Lowry winning Europe’s flagship event.

And that’s in the last 18 months alone.

And of course, we’ve got the world number one.

Given all of Rory McIlroy’s early success and his longevity in the game, it’s easy to forget just how fortunate we are to have one of the genuine all-time greats be born on our shores. In many ways, Rory’s a victim of his own success – often maligned for failure in a game where victory is the preserve of less than one percent on any given week.

And in a game like golf, when anything less than victory is seen as failure, what better example do you need?

Yeah, we’ve got it good alright. And I’m thankful for that.

And for turkey, of course.

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