As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
HAVE I ever actually held a golfclub in my hand? Dunno, but I’ve a surprising amount to say about golf! Having said that, I did whack my sister in the head with a golf club once at a driving range. She was bending down to move the ball at the time. That would have been the one and only time I got anywhere near golf, as such.
Golfgate certainly rang a few bells. Oh yes, the male privilege, the lack of accountability, the dinosaur elite. But more than that, for me, it was the golf at the heart of it that struck me as familiar. You see I grew up in a family where the men, and only the men, played GOLF.
Golf was not just a game to them, it was more like a religion. I don’t know how many times I heard women muttering about being golf widows and threatening to take lessons. It was taken for granted that women could only become associate members, or “Lady Members” in those days. Women could not impinge on the male territory of the hallowed Golf Club X. So generally they didn’t. They stayed home, looked after the children, made the meals and waited resentfully for Daddy to return.
‘You can imagine the arguments a teenage girl would have with a golf loving Father… Why can’t women play on the course whenever they like? Why is golf expensive and exclusive to men?’
My Father played golf every Saturday and Sunday. In the summer time he also played a couple of nights a week into the long bright evenings. He wasn’t really there for the networking, the big business deals or the politics. If it was any excuse, he was genuinely there to play and win prizes; always at least one turkey at Christmas, the Waterford Crystal yokes, the celebration in the 19th hole.
As children we didn’t understand that Dad’s Saturday “golfing headache” was possibly a few too many after the game? All I know is that when he came in from the club, he wasn’t fit for much. Slumped in a chair, he would be recovering, mopping his brow and reading the paper until the next outing.
Now in fairness he was a good golfer, a scratch golfer as they say. And of course that carried its own pressures and status. He would look down his nose at lads in posh cars with expensive golf clubs and big expense accounts. Absolute eegits as far as he was concerned. Golf culture has its own tribes, and my Dad was in the seriously competitive one.
Maybe you can imagine the arguments a teenage girl, a lifetime golf orphan would have with a golf loving Father? Why can’t women become full members, was a big theme? Why can’t women play on the course whenever they like? Why is golf expensive and exclusive to men?
Years later when he was a senior golfer, I was visiting Dad on my birthday. He wanted to take me out for dinner to celebrate but on one condition; he had to get back to the golf club to collect a prize by 9 o’clock. I of course was a bit miffed that he was fidgeting and rushing the meal to get there. But it was another example of how golf was prioritised above all else.
Well into his seventies at this stage, he was partnered with a youngster in his thirties. The pair of them were down the back, giggling like schoolboys and when their names were called, my Dad ran to the stage. You would think he had just won an Oscar.
It is probably true that inside every old golfing josser (as he used to say) there is a 10-year-old boy lurking. The joy and the unfathomable pleasure this game brought to my Dad’s life was maybe part of his boyhood dream. In another world he could have been a professional sportsman I suppose.
Meanwhile, he had four daughters to raise but in spite of that fact, never did the penny drop that women should be equal on the golf course. He maintained until the end that the golf course had to be clear for the men, the full members, and the stronger, faster, better golfers. Never mind that generations of women and children, like us, were abandoned by men like him, who sought escape and the privilege of a male only environment; golf, football, rugby and the pub.
(My first thought about Golfgate was, where were the women? Was it just “wives” or were there a few women golfers amongst them??)
There with him in the hallowed golf club that night of my birthday outing, I was introduced to his old buddies. “Do you play golf as well as your Dad?” “What club are you in?” “You must be a great golfer”.
I snorted and denied everything. No! No! No! I have absolutely no interest whatsoever!!!
Ah but you will, they said knowingly. You will!
Defiant to the last, I still don’t!