Being a professional golfer at this time of year is weird.
I’ve been trying for a month to try and put it into words but it just won’t work. The symbolism of that is almost exactly my point, but I still don’t really know what I’m trying to say. That’s the whole problem with this time of year.
It’s the time of year you crave at regular intervals from February to November.
It’s the time of year that looks like a golden stretch of hallowed ground, a shining light that your outstretched fingertips can almost touch when you wake up trying to make the cut in your last tournament of the year, the fumes of exhaustion an unpleasant cocktail of anti-malaria tablets, 48 hours of nutritional intake consisting of a solitary chocolate ice cream, a lingering bug that could be from a day ago or could be from multiple trips to countries across the globe that your stomach just doesn’t seem to want on the schedule. Blended with the emotional baggage of another year of playing golf for a living, that I could spend the rest of my life trying to find the words to do justice to without ever coming close. (Disclaimer: I wouldn’t change a second of it.)
It’s the time of year that looks and smells like a bar to an in-denial alcoholic, the anticipation of the glass being raised to your lips while you’re walking back to the tee to try not to hit your third tee shot in a row out of bounds, point blank refusing to look up from the ground or to acknowledge the desperately kind “good shot” that trails your ball finally finding the fairway. For five.
It’s the time of year that looks like an endlessly soft bed with an endless supply of coffee with endless football to watch when you’re a little bit drunk in a pub in Woburn, trying to let alcohol provide the reason and rationality to fight down the firing squad of questions your brain is providing as answers for a derailing few weeks that needed to matter most.
There, in those moments, when you’re still doing the thing you love for a living but the only thing dragging you through is professional pride, the thought of this time of year is oxygen.
And then you get here, to this time of year, and you feel like you can’t breathe properly.
Because all those moments during the year when you crave some time, some peace, a chance to step back and see the big picture… you get here and you don’t know what the big picture is. You don’t know how it connects, and you thought this was the time when it was supposed to connect. In reality, it’s the in-between moments when it connects. When it makes sense… even if the moments themselves don’t.
The moments when you’re waiting in an immigration queue wondering whether to reflect on the tournament just gone or anticipate the one coming, the moments when you’re lying in a dark hotel room watching a Premier League game from six time zones away howling at a VAR call as you await an afternoon tee time, the moments when you walk past the slightly red-faced, slightly overweight, slightly upper class British tourists in Marbella to find a quiet rock overlooking a beautiful blue sea for an hour or so. The moments when you’re sitting in an airport in the middle of the night with around 100 occupants, 95 of which are other professional golfers and 4 of which are monkeys, casually juxtaposing with an unfinished roof and a shop selling Pringles and Dairy Milk.
Those in-between moments are the ones where you join up some of the dots. They’re the moments that create most of my blogs. The reason I’ve been struggling to write this one is because it’s a moment that’s in between the in-between moments, and I don’t know how to make sense of that. I don’t know how it connects.
But as someone much wiser than me told me recently, that’s when you keep going, one piece at a time. Connecting one more dot to another. Connecting the space that separates. Even if it’s only to get from one in-between to another in-between. Finding the precipice where you can breathe. Finding the precipice where you can succeed.