Sneak Peek: This article will appear in the Feb. 11 edition of Global Golf Post.
When top players in the recent Saudi International were asked why they had chosen to play in that Arab land, one after another spoke of a desire to grow the game. Needless to say, none of them was about to say that it had more to do with appearance money.
However, when it was Patrick Reed’s turn, and he started to go down the “growing the game” route, you listened. And not least because of the extent to which he had just given his all at a Q&A session at a local school. European Tour officials had wanted their new honorary life member to tell the youngsters a thing or two about the game they would be watching the next morning.
The visit was designed to take no more than half an hour, but when, after some 15 minutes, the reigning Masters champion was advised that there was a car ready to take him back to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, he asked if he could stay put.
In the end, he stayed for another hour and a half. At the invitation of the compère, he had played the “shushing” game, making like he did when he shushed the crowd during the 2016 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Before he left, he signed a card for everyone before handing the headmaster another block of freshly signed cards just in case some of his pupils had been off school that day.
Such was his enthusiasm for this diversion that I asked if he had rung his wife, Justine, to tell her all about it. He had.
And what did she have to say?
“She said, ‘This is the Patrick I know.’ ”
Reed could not be more popular than he is on the European Tour, where people tend to enjoy the fact that he is a little different from the norm. He doesn’t go in for political correctness and he doesn’t worry overmuch about the fallout.
“I’ve always been true to myself,” he said. “There are some people I rub up the wrong way but it’s impossible to please everyone all the time. There are, after all, so many different views to be had.”
He did not mind saying, though, that the hug he shared recently with Jordan Spieth at Torrey Pines was all about pleasing the golfing public who otherwise might have been thinking that the two of them still were at war about what happened at last year’s Ryder Cup in France. Namely, when Reed made plain that he was not happy with Jim Furyk, the U.S. captain, and whoever else was responsible, for splitting his and Spieth’s old partnership. “It’s true I didn’t understand why they did what they did but, then again, it wasn’t my call,” he said. “The thing is is that the incident was fleeting and it made no difference to Jordan’s and my relationship. We talk all the time.”
Reed said he enjoyed the camaraderie of a Ryder Cup evening. “I’m not a lone wolf in a team context, though I am quiet. Everyone’s expected to speak about himself in the players’ room and there are some who make you wonder if they’re ever going to stop. But it’s fun.
Would he say that his fellow Ryder Cup men understand him?
There was a pause before he said, “Some of them do.”
He is very close to Justine who, when she gave up her nursing career to follow him, learned as much as she could about golf in order to be able to work as his caddie. Even now, when she spends more time at home because of their two children, she will keep a close eye on the golf on TV. That way, she can keep her husband up to speed with how a course is playing before he sets out.
It was Justine who put a stop to him taking his golf home. “ ‘Golf,’ she told me, ‘isn’t everything. It’s just a game that you happen to play.’ ”
“Golf is pretty boring for kids because it’s so slow. … They need to be shown the fun side of golf and I have ideas as to how that could work all over the world.” – Patrick Reed
When it comes to his children, Reed is revelling at the chance he has to take them with him on some at least of his travels: “They should end up pretty well-rounded kids,” he suggested. Again, you would have to think that they will be beneficiaries of the children’s golf academies he plans to create when he starts to diversify.
Firstly, he tells you that no children at any academy of his will be drilling for four or five hours a day. “Golf,” he explained, “is pretty boring for kids because it’s so slow. When it’s on TV, they can sit there forever waiting for something to happen, and when they go out to watch, they’re usually tucked so far behind the ropes that they can’t see. They need to be shown the fun side of golf and I have ideas as to how that could work all over the world.”
His first experience of working with kids came when he was in his last year at high school and he was asked to introduce the younger ones to the game. He started thinking then of how he could be the player to make a difference – and that vision was enhanced when he joined the European Tour and started to see more of the golfing globe.
When asked to elaborate on how teaching little ones gives him such a kick, he lit at once on that moment when they hit their first good shot. “There’s magic in the way they turn round and beam at you. … That one shot can turn them into addicts.”
There’s magic, too, in the way children react to him. In Saudi Arabia, there was one question they had forgotten to ask at the school Q&A and, when they watched him hole a long putt early in his first round, they had to hurry across to his manager to see if it was OK to clap.
Later in the day of our conversation, there was a programme on TV devoted to tennis legend Billie Jean King in which, at the very end, Rosie Casals paid tribute to her old doubles partner for the way she had improved the lot of women in tennis.
“There is no greater validation,” she said, “than having someone say, ‘You made a difference.’ ”
It was an admittedly hackneyed sign-off line, but is it possible that people will one day be saying the same of Reed’s efforts to change a child’s golfing path?
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