DEREK LAWRENSON: After 145 majors and 18 Ryder Cups I shall be bowing out after 40 superb years following golfers around the world… but I leave the game with grave fears regarding its future
- I have spent 40 years following golfers around world and writing about exploits
- In terms of the Claret Jug, it all began for me at the Open at St Andrews in 1984
- I feel I’ve led a charmed working life with all those nerve-shredding Ryder Cups
- No job however would be worthwhile if all it contained were the good times
I can still recall the resounding verdict that my old French teacher passed on my future career prospects as I left school at 16 with just three O Levels.
‘With your attitude, you’re destined for a miserable working life,’ she said, with her usual boundless encouragement.
All this time later, including almost 40 years following golfers around the world and writing about their exploits, I think I’ve earned the right to a verdict of my own as I look forward to one final Open before retiring to the 19th hole: how wrong can you possibly be?
I think I’ve earned the right to a verdict as I look forward to one final Open before retiring
In terms of the Claret Jug, it all began here at St Andrews in 1984, standing behind the 18th green as the incomparable Seve Ballesteros performed his joyous matador’s salute. ‘This will do for me,’ I thought.
When you think what’s happened in golf from that day to this, from the rise of Europe’s famous five to every major Tiger Woods has graced; all those great, nerve-shredding Ryder Cups. You’ll understand why I feel I’ve led a charmed working life.
In all there have been 145 major championships and 18 Ryder Cups. I must have covered 1,000 tournaments in all and flown over the Atlantic more than 150 times.
I’ve seen my own trade change from type-writing pieces and reading them to copytakers down telephone, to having the ability this week to write something on a hand-held device sitting in the grandstand at the far end of the Old Course. And people think the art of playing golf has changed….
In terms of the Claret Jug, it all began here at St Andrews with Seve Ballesteros in 1984
When people ask something along the lines of what was Seve really like, it feels an enormous privilege to think back over plenty of one-on-ones and to be able to say: ‘Yes, I can offer something on that’.
During interviews, I saw him break down and cry as well as laugh. I felt the rage that was uncontrollable at times but made him the awesome player that he was.
Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing. No job would be worthwhile if all it contained were good times.
One tour chief executive didn’t speak to me for two years over something I wrote and a chairman of the European Tour players’ committee tried to have me banned.
I feel I’ve led a charmed working life with all those great, nerve-shredding Ryder Cups
An eight-time winner of the Order of Merit, as it then was, once told me in a car park that he wanted to punch me. I guess the fact I attended his wedding a couple of years later tells you that we managed to resolve our differences.
That’s something I’ve enjoyed about golf. Plenty of players and administrators have taken issue with my thoughts but there have been few grudges. I always thought Ian Poulter’s approach was spot on.
He was never slow to let me know when I wrote something with which he disagreed and he even screamed at me once while practising for a US Open. But at the end of it? ‘Right, I’ve had my say on that one, let’s shake hands and never speak about it again,’ he said. How it should be.
Golf is not the easiest sport to write about, and particularly if you work for a British newspaper. With three of the four majors taking place in America, you’re invariably fighting ferocious deadlines.
The rise of Europe’s famous five and every major Tiger Woods has graced has been special
It still makes me laugh when I think back on angry letters from readers living in far-flung parts of the UK receiving first edition copies of the paper demanding to know: ‘Why the hell have you written about Rory again? Why don’t you write about the bloke who won?’
At least now there is the website where, funnily enough, I do — or did — write about the winner.
Ah, the readers. There must be 100 of you who still email me on a regular basis and you feel like friends now. I’ll certainly miss our correspondence. Most of you know more about golf than I do.
I leave the game with grave fears regarding its future, if I’m truthful. There’s plenty that I’ll miss about the job but I’m looking forward to the blissful luxury of completely ignoring everything to do with LIV.
Ian Poulter’s approach to taking issue with my thoughts when writing was spot on
Writing about someone who shoots 80 and makes £750,000? No thanks. That’s not sport, it’s disgusting. Greed is threatening the soul of the game I’ve spent my life writing about.
As for myself, I was 23 the last time I watched the Masters or the Open at home on television — younger than my son is now, for heaven’s sake! I’m looking forward to doing that, with a glass of wine in hand.
One last twirl round sublime St Andrews, therefore, and then time, in the immortal words of the great Walter Hagen, to smell the roses.
I’m looking forward to the blissful luxury of completely ignoring everything to do with LIV
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