My father virtually never swears, and on the rare occasions he does, the words come out in a very unpracticed and awkward fashion. It’s only natural, I suppose, as it takes practice to perfect and being a less than accomplished potty mouth is something to be lauded.
Unfortunately, the apple fell far from the tree where expletives are concerned. In fact, I probably more than make up for his reticence.
I curse in such an accomplished manner that it’s often only when somebody points it out it that I’m even aware myself. Having young nieces and nephews was an eye-opener on this, and I’m proud to say that I’ve tempered it a touch, at least when little, all-hearing ears and mouths that repeat everything, are around.
But when my dad swears, it’s memorable. And in fact, him swearing is actually one of my earliest Ryder Cup memories. At nine, I was a little too young to have any real interest in watching the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry, but by 1995, things had changed.
This was part due to Greg Norman’s stetson – I was a big John Wayne fan as a kid – part due to ‘Wild Thing’ John Daly winning the Open Championship at St. Andrews complete with flowing blonde mullet and shell-suited girlfriend, and part due to the acquisition of the Links: The Challenge of Golf video game. For those old enough to remember the latter, here’s a walk down memory lane: “Looks like he hit the tree, Jim.”
For those that means nothing to, you have my sympathies.
But anyway, by 1995, I was a fan, and with parents who were both sports fanatics, there was only one option when it came to watching TV that weekend.
So what do I actually remember? Well, I remember Seve being awful, unable to hit the ball remotely straight, but still somehow grinding out a win in one of his matches and getting the most out of his gamesmanship abilities when his ball-striking abilities had completely deserted him.
I remember hearing Fred Couples referred to as ‘Boom Boom’ for the first time and entering a one-sided love affair that exists to this day; I still back Couples for first-round leader at the Masters every year, even though I’ve long given up home of any return for my fiver.
And I remember Corey Pavin chipping in on the final hole of his Saturday fourball match to beat Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer and my father, bleeding the blue of Europe, calling him “a little b**tard.” I’ve never been able to see Pavin without that image springing to mind; the diminutive, mustachioed American didn’t even have the decency to celebrate it. His stony face was at complete odds with my father’s outburst, and this somehow made his egregious act of holing out seem worse.
I can’t recall much else from that week besides Philip Walton claiming the winning point with his broom-handled putter – the first broom handle I’d ever seen – and that damned, pesky Pavin beating Langer in the match before.
Were I 20 years older, given what Pavin was able to do with virtually all of his contemporaries outdriving him by half a football pitch, I’m quite confident that I’d have been rooting for him week in and week out on the PGA Tour. He was a David in a field full of Goliaths, he was the plucky underdog, and what’s more, he turned up when it mattered most.
What’s not to like about that?
But I can’t escape 1995. I can’t escape the memories of that chip in. And I can’t escape my father’s reaction. Because of that, Corey Pavin is and always will be “a little b**tard.” But as I’ve come to realise, one side’s “little b**tard” is another side’s hero. There can be no greater honour in the Ryder Cup than to be the player most despised by the other side.
He might not have been the pantomime villain to the majority of the European support – in fact, I’m near certain he wasn’t. There was no chest thumping a la Ian Poulter, no cupping the ear and screaming “I can’t hear you,” like Rory McIlroy, no Boo Weekley ‘yee-hawing’ and cowboy-riding his driver down the first fairway, and no finger to the lips ‘shushing’ of a certain Patrick Reed, but he was very much the villain to 11-year-old me.
And he did it by winning matches and winning them in the most clutch and ultimately heart-breaking fashion.
So kudos to Mr. Pavin. You’re in exalted company because it’s not easy to get my dad to turn the air blue.