The end of the PGA Tour season, the finish of the CP Women’s Open, the last week of summer golf for yours truly, a significant birthday in July, a major television project on the horizon, and the tenth anniversary of writing my first article for Fairways, all seem like an appropriate time for me to close my laptop and take an extended, if not permanent, leave from column-writing for this fine publication.
Even though I’ve curtailed my submission frequency here over the past couple of years, it’s become increasingly clear to me that I just don’t have much to write about anymore. All the good, printable stories I’ve experienced in golf over seven decades have been told, and many others can’t be told without fear of a lawsuit. I’ve so often expressed my opinion on many golf matters, like slow play, ignorant behaviour, the asinine Rules of Golf, and the wonder that is Brooke Henderson (several times), that I fear I risk becoming repetitive, boring, and stale.
I’ve written, by rough count, well over 300 pieces for Fairways, and I’ve loved every minute, and every word, I’ve expended. I can’t say it’s made me rich or famous, but that was never the intention, hope, or motivation. I’ve just enjoyed the opportunity to express myself, and I couldn’t have found a better, more flexible publication or publisher to share my memories and challenge my creativity. Nor a better, or more silent, audience!
Fairways has also given me the opportunity to travel and broaden my golf horizons. When I started writing here, a decade ago, I think I had played about 225 courses, in five countries. I’ve since added another 100 courses, in five more countries… many of them thanks to the fact that I’m happy to write about them, and have had a respected outlet to do so, in Fairways. (In fact, I intend to maintain a reduced schedule of golf travel, and will happily provide articles about my destinations here, so I won’t be gone entirely.)
The last ten years have made a number of impressions on me that I’d like to share before I say au revoir…
- I’ve always believed, but today even more strongly, that 99% of the time, people are nicer on a golf course than anywhere else. You come across the occasional jerk, but generally I find people more relaxed, friendlier, and more fun to be with when they’re walking on green grass. Meeting new people, and people from other countries, always seems to be more pleasant on a golf course, too. Making longstanding friendships with new people is easier through golf, too. I love golf for this reason most of all.
- A decade ago, most of us involved in golf were beginning to wring our hands about the decline in the popularity of the game. This was occurring in the wake of the worst recession in modern times (2008-09), but it had started in about 2005, ending an unprecedented boom in golf generated by the arrival of Tiger Woods in 1996. The angst continued for about five years. But one respected voice thought it was all much ado about nothing: Lorne Rubenstein was a guest on a Toronto TV show I hosted, and his view was just that golf was returning to its core level of participation, after a decade in which a lot of people kicked its tires, but didn’t buy the full vehicle. Five years after Lorne expressed this thought, I believe he was, and is, 100% correct. Golf course architects like Doug Carrick and Tom McBroom, who made considerable incomes designing and building new courses during the boom may not agree, but there’s no question the building of the 1996-2008 period was a case of overbuilding. But I think golf generally, and golf in Canada, is in a good place right now.
- One of the aspects of golf that grew after 1996, and continues to grow today, is international interest and participation. There are golf courses in over 180 countries around the world, today. And with that, of course, we’ve seen the huge success of non-US born players on both the men’s and women’s tours. I think it’s fabulous… although there’s a lot of disgruntlement in Trump America about the way South Korean women have come to dominate the women’s professional game. Personally, I have nothing but admiration for the way these young women have had the courage to embrace a new country, new culture, new language, ambivalence and even hostility, to succeed where no one would ever have dreamed they could.
- When I started writing my column, I had never played links golf. I had lived in London, in the early 1970s, but never got the chance to scurry up to Scotland, or over to Ireland, or even just down the M2 to the easily accessible links masterpieces on the southeast coast. But writing for Fairways gave me the opportunity and the incentive to get off my butt and become a more rounded observer of the game. Now, like most people I know who’ve experienced the finer links courses in the UK, or Australia (and other newer spots like Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Cabot Links in Cape Breton), I would say I’m more energized, inspired, and engaged by playing links courses than even the finest parkland designs. I could gladly spend the rest o’ me days shuttling around the United Kingdom, on a permanent golf trek, breathing clean air and taking in the natural splendour of dunes, gorse, heather, and sea.
- A decade ago, neither of my two sons was married. Today, they are both blessed with engaging, beautiful and successful wives, they have three kids between the two couples, and everyone in the family, including the little ones, loves golf. Assuming they all keep it up, this will be five generations of my family, dating back over 120 years, who have made golf an important part of their lives. My sons have won tournaments and trophies in golf and other sports, but as a Dad, I’m proudest of the fact that they learned to love the game with my encouragement, and they’re doing exactly the same thing with their kids. I look forward to watching them grow up, especially on the golf course.
Thank you all, dear reader(s), for your kind attention over the past ten years. Thank you, Fairways! It’s been a blast.
Editor’s note: Jim says he has nothing more to say but whether it’s as an intrepid golf traveler or an old crank, we’re betting we haven’t seen the last of him. Nonetheless, thank you Jim for your stories, your inspiration and your friendship over the past ten years. It’s been fun. Good luck with the TV show! And just to prove that it’s more “bye for now” than “bye forever”, Jim will continue his role as the curmudgeonly critic on our weekly Round Table.