The Inspiration of Attending Your First Golf Tournament
Article by Golfshake Writer Will Trinkwon
I was 13 years old when I first attended the BMW PGA. Back then it was in sunny May, Wentworth’s famous pines soaring against a brilliantly azure blue sky, and the heather pink and purpling under the light of the sun. Now, of course, the event has been moved to September, when the weather isn’t quite so predictable. But my memories of the event remain strong and positive: it was such a big part of my golfing childhood. Top quality professional competitions in England have become something of a rarity, and were scarce even when I was young. As one of the few really great UK tournaments left, the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth was, and is, incredibly special.
The first time I ever went to the PGA was in 2009. I’d just started my own golfing adventure, in the process of whistling down from 19 to 9; my dad had just become junior organiser at a local golf club and had organised a junior section trip. I was so excited the night before I could barely sleep. Where else, apart from the Open, was there the opportunity to see so many of the world’s top golfers, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer battling it out on English soil, only an hour or so drive from my home? Even before I got there, I was inspired. If I didn’t know that golf was how I wanted to spend the next four or five summers of my life playing nearly every day, the spectacle of a swaggering, moppy-haired McIlroy lobbing irons into the clouds roundly confirmed it. Having these home events that you can access is such a great way of inspiring youngsters. And I’m sure the PGA Championship continues to have this effect today.
But it’s also, of course, just a damn good show. Once we’d negotiated a parking official and, after much searching, located a place to park, we entered the Wentworth grounds. The first thing that hits you – or hit a 13 year old me at any rate – was the atmosphere. It may not be a major, but as the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA is high tariff, and boy does this show. There was just such a buzz, electricity in the air. The crowds were huge, and the sense of occasion was only amplified when I caught sight of Wentworth’s magnificent, castle clubhouse – it felt like I’d stepped back in time to the Renaissance. There was also the breathtakingly new, in the form of the tented village, where the latest in golf tech and other cool gadgets stood waiting to be tested by my hands. Of course, I now realise that much of this stuff is just standard for a fairly big golf tournament, but back then it felt Star Trek-ish and extremely novel, a real tour de force of futuristic stuff.
But the real thrill of going to Wentworth, of course, was the golf. Our great game sometimes gets accused of being a bad spectator sport. We hear so much about treacle slow rounds, fusty traditions, spectators being cowed by military officials into a deathly and terrified silence. A non-golfing friend of mine recently joked that the last golf event he saw resembled a funeral. Whatever competition he attended, it certainly wasn’t Wentworth. Yes, there were plenty of ‘silence please’ signs being brandished, but my overwhelming memory of my first ever PGA Championship is of sound. Colin Montgomerie, often billed as a bit of a downer, visibly brightened when vocally cheered on by a lone Monty fan in the crowds. And the shots the professionals were untethering! Cresting single figures at 13, I’d naively assumed that I was becoming fairly competent. No. Such. Thing. There’s nothing to ram home just how much of a speck on the lowermost rungs of the golfing totem you are than seeing Alvaro Quiros launch a 3 iron 300 yards into the sky. Humbling? You bet. But what a thing to see in the flesh.
The 2009 Championship was closely fought, filled with drama and great shotmaking in spades. For all its difficulty – and it’s been made tougher since its rejig in 2014 – Wentworth is a course that yields birdies and rewards the player whose ball-striking is on form. Such was the case with local boy Ross Fisher in the final round. Beginning the day five back of Casey, Fisher caught fire and romped home with a brilliant 64. Casey stayed firm to make his own excellent innings of 68. But he only came good by a shot and the drama on the final few holes was incredible. I remember quite literally biting my nails as I watched Casey tee off on 18, certain, by some weird premonition that he was going to palm it O.B. Fortunately, he held on – I think he even finished with a birdie – to capture the Championship, rising for the first time in his career, into the world’s top three golfers. It was a privilege to witness.
I’ve returned to Wentworth many times since 2009, and am looking forward to sweeping past the castle again this year. No matter how great the tournament, however, no matter how tense the drama, how succulent the obligatory apple sauce and cider-laced hog roast, it will never quite match my first time. Like your first kiss and first love, you never quite forget your first live golf tournament, still less if you’re privileged enough for it to be the BMW PGA.
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