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The first time I ever went to a golf tournament with my dad, I was sixteen years old. It was  the Carling Caledonian Championship and it was won by Christy O’Connor Sr, who took away a massive £1000 cheque. It was played at Longniddry and the on-course facilities were primitive. For example the toilet facilities were oil drums in a tent. Ladies? No idea.

Fifty-seven years on and I’m sitting in Gullane, a few miles farther along what these days they call the Golf Coast. My village is rather over-golfed at the moment. Earlier this month we hosted the men’s Scottish Open, and the great circus that goes with it; currently the ladies are on the second round of their event. (There is an assumption that when the golf tour visits, it pours loads of cash into the local economy. That’s not what I hear, but I do plan to invest in the traffic cone industry.)

Two weeks ago, while doing a shift as a volunteer marshal, I had an encounter with a Tour player. I don’t intend to revisit that, other than to remark that my complaint to the Tournament Director remains unacknowledged. The incident is history but the underlying principle is not. It was in focus again yesterday when I watched the Porsche Open on Sky and saw the current Masters champion throw his toys out of the pram because he claimed to have heard someone rattling coins in his pocket as he was preparing to play.  (If he’d been playing well enough at the time I doubt that he’d have heard a gunshot.)

Such guys need to look at themselves, not at those around them. I doubt that there is another group of sportsmen who are more pampered than golfers. It’s ironic that the Tour’s support systems seem to be designed to ensure that they have to walk as little  as possible off the course. At Gullane they are delivered to the first tee and collected from the eighteenth green by buggies, driven by volunteers. The crowds who follow them are controlled by more volunteers, briefed from the Tour handbook. Their exploits are recorded and transmitted by a dedicated television unit, which broadcasts to the global audience that their many corporate sponsors require to justify their investments.

All of this support ensures that the top players on the tour are hugely rewarded. The lad who won the Scottish Open trousered just over a million dollars. And that takes me back to Longniddry. Brandon Stone is at the beginning of his career. If he works really hard and maximises his talent he might turn out to be nearly as good as Christy O’Connor Sr. But don’t bet on it.





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