MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND | When Shaun Micheel, the 2003 PGA champion, was playing in Bangkok one year, he volunteered that the next time he played with a Thomas Bjørn or a Colin Montgomerie, he would equip himself with “a whistle, a bell and a pair of boxing gloves.” (The two European Tour players had apparently had a bit of a bust-up in the tournament’s second round.)
Thus equipped, the now 50-year-old Micheel would also be able to challenge either Jin Young Ko or Charley Hull to a quick bout. Both of those golfers have learned to box a bit, while Bronte Law is another leading contender at this week’s AIG Women’s British Open to have used boxing for the furtherance of her golf.
The boxing theme came up on Wednesday when someone checked if Jin Young’s father, Sung Tae Ko, had been a boxer and whether or not his sporting background had been of any help to his daughter. “Yeah,” replied the winner of last week’s Evian Championship. “I always did jumping rope with dad when I was 10 or 11. Like a minimum of 30 minutes and maximum an hour.” (Readers might like to give it a try for one minute.)
Afterwards, her manager explained that Sung Tae, though he was never the best of boxers himself, encouraged his daughter to box in the course of passing on what he knew about fitness work. Still more significantly, he taught her to apply a boxer’s thinking to the golf she started at the age of 10.
Jin Young would explain: “He told me that a boxer had to keep his eyes open at all times. A boxer cannot shut his eyes. What he meant was that you have to face everything that comes your way when you are playing competitive sport; you have to stay strong when things are tough.”
“As a boxer, I never want to get beaten – and you’ve got to be more like that on the golf course.” – Ozzie Smith, professional fighter and Charley Hull’s fiancé
Hull’s boxing know-how came down to her choice of husband-to-be. Ozzie Smith is a professional mixed martial arts fighter with a specialty in boxing. He very quickly decided that Charley’s thinking as a golfer needed to have more in common with the attitude he took into the ring. “As a boxer,” he said, “I never want to get beaten – and you’ve got to be more like that on the golf course.” He also stopped her from dismissing a tournament in which she was not at her best with a glib remark along the lines of “there’s always next week.” As he said, boxers, when they have so few competitive outings, would never allow themselves to think like that. They would pour everything into the fight at hand and keep fighting.
Bronte Law’s father, Tim, had nothing to do with boxing. However, he made a serious study of how his daughter could be the best golfer she could be from the day she declared that playing as a professional was all she wanted to do. (She was 13 at the time.)
Tim read any number of sports books on psychology, golfing and otherwise, and, in the process, picked up on many a useful comment from the boxing world. “The boxing thoughts have really helped me throughout this season,” said Bronte, who has soared to 22nd on the Rolex Rankings.
When asked to elaborate, she started by making mention of how a boxer’s goal is to hit those knockout punches, “only sometimes it’s not that easy. So you might have to play defensively certain times and wait for your chances. … If you do take a punch, sometimes you have to play a little bit defensive before you can throw another punch back.”
By way of illustrating the point, she said that there were plenty of times when, after she has made a bogey, she will nowadays hit back with a string of birdies: “Sometimes you take that hit and it kind of motivates you.”
Boxing terminology is hardly new to golf, with pride of place going to the phrase “blow by blow” which was first applied to prize-fight broadcasts of the 1920s. In golf, of course, it works well in the derogatory sense when used to capture the boredom that goes with tuning into some fellow golfer’s detailed account of his latest disaster of a medal round.
Top photo: Scott Taetsch, Getty Images
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