And on and on and on we go.
A 13 hour flight to follow an 8 hour drive home across the channel, with 12 hours at home sandwiched in the middle… eight of them to sleep and four of them to do washing and try and work out why the hot water has stopped working. Trying to work out what lessons are worth carrying the 10,000km from one tournament to the next. The last lingering fumes of satisfaction and adrenaline made way for a slightly deflating exhaustion and hunger somewhere between passport control and carriage C of “Le Tunnel”. Turns out the magnum wasn’t really enough to replace lunch, dinner and 18 holes of trying to win a tournament that someone else was just too good for.
We don’t often talk about the emptiness that gets left behind at tournaments. I can only begin to imagine what it’s like returning from a Solheim or Ryder Cup, or winning a major, or Olympic medal. I think it’s partly because closure is borderline impossible when analysis and preparation are a necessary combination that bridge past, present and future. Because does closure happen on the last green, when your 6 footer for par that actually means absolutely nothing finds the middle of the hole? Is it when the winner walks away from the trophy ceremony; yardage book still in their back pocket as they avoid innumerable notifications on their phone to find the people they actually want to call while working out if they’re going to make it to the airport in time to get to the next event? The travelling circus of players and staff roll in, and with it the fans and the cute kids and the volunteers and the infrastructure – and a sliding scale of hope and determination and disappointment – and one person’s life becomes inextricably linked with it all – and then we all roll out again and everyone goes home.
And then what? When we’ve all left pieces of ourselves behind? If you want any chance of success in a sport where losing is the norm, being ok with leaving those pieces behind is a necessary apathy. But we’re all humans. There are pieces of myself left behind on a driving range in Cape Town. There are pieces of myself somewhere between the water and the rocks on the 16th at Evian, and in a bunker that I should never have reached on the 14th at Walton Heath, and in the middle of a tree stump at Dromoland Castle. The landscapes of golf courses change and the cityscapes we drive through to get to them change, but so much remains the same.
Some pieces get pulled out by uncertainty, or adrenaline, or creating problematic stories based on problematic past experiences. Some get pulled out by an actual pull draw and a right to left wind. Whatever causes them, the intensity of each tournament week means it’s almost impossible to work out which ones are worth dragging back with you. Most of the time you’re too busy packing your flight bag in the car park and trying to book your practice rounds for the next week to notice in time anyway.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that golf couldn’t care less what emotions you bring with you. It cares only about your actions; and whether you can commit to them regardless of which pieces of yourself are present or missing. Maybe that’s why the last few weeks have left me feeling like I’m finally gaining pieces of myself from the places I go to… instead of leaving them behind.