The media boycott by Naomi Osaka at the French Open had our tennis writing brethren and sistren in a frightful fankle. When sporty folk embark on an omerta, the lack of quotes tends to be greeted with the kind of brow-mopping harrumphing you get with a Nicola Sturgeon update on Glasgow’s Level 3 status.

While Osaka delivered a personal justification for her reticence, those of us in the golf reporting game probably hadn’t batted an eyelid at her cold-shouldering of the press.

Many’s the time, for instance, we have still managed to chisel 700 words out of nothing from a scowling Colin Montgomerie as he thundered past the assembled scribblers like a locomotive with a cow catcher mowing through a herd of dazed cattle.

Monty’s seething silences would still speak volumes. As for this column? Well, it continues to speak nonsense…


Back in March 2020, when the first coronavirus lockdown kicked in and you were only allowed to stick your head out the window for a quick gulp of fresh air before returning to your crypt, the suspension of golf was a particular scunner.

A year and a bit on, the Royal & Ancient game has enjoyed such a renaissance, even Michelangelo would struggle to a get a tee-time.

Once restrictions were eased last summer, there was plenty of evidence, both factually and anecdotally, to suggest that golf had found a silver lining amid the coronavirus clouds as the activity-starved public stampeded to facilities in scenes akin to the migration of the wildebeest on the Serengeti.

Last week’s findings of a survey commissioned by the R&A underlined the resurgence. Amid a blizzard of figures and statistics, the report found that on-course adult participation in GB&I had increased by 2.3 million in 2020. Driving range usage doubled, there were increases at par-3 courses and pitch-and-putt facilities, the average age of golfers dropped by five years and the number of females increased.

As an ideal pursuit for these socially distanced times, golf enjoyed a timely tonic amid the ravages of the pandemic.

A crisis tends to focus the mind. It’s a bit like sitting down to write this ruddy column. Many clubs have had the opportunity to really assess how they are run and make much-needed changes to capitalise on this new found enthusiasm. After years of complacency, there are plenty of tales of a fresh willingness to adapt, embrace and innovate; to be more accessible, flexible, affordable and, indeed, affable. Maintaining this interest, when other leisure activities return to pre-covid prominence, will be a challenge but hopefully golf has stolen something of a march and the opportunities can be grasped.

Plenty of downbeat doom and gloom gets written and talked about concerning golf’s well-documented historical ills. There is a danger of the self-fulfilling prophecy about it at times. The game, though, is currently in a wonderfully positive position, whether it’s a 50-year-old Phil Mickelson conjuring a story that transcended the sport with his thrilling US PGA win, a 14-year-old teeing-up in this week’s US Women’s Open or Wattie and Doreen both deciding to take up a membership at their local club due to the game’s benefits for body and mind.

In the last year, many routine, simple pleasures of everyday life have been taken away but golf, with a few behavioural, health-conscious modifications before, during and after a round, still provided a much-needed antidote, and some much-needed escapism, from covid’s stifling despair. Hopefully, those who found sporting sanctuary with a club in their hand will be encouraged to stick with it.


Everybody is looking for a more effective way to biff, batter, coax and cajole a dimpled ball about a golf course. Training aids, strokesavers, green books, rangefinders, gym work, mind gurus, dieticians, profanity, sorcery, prayer? You name it, people will try it.

In a game increasingly cluttered by various accoutrements, while players seem to seek constant re-assurance instead of committing to the courage of their instincts, it was somewhat refreshing to hear of Juvic Pagunsan’s success in the Mizuno Open at the weekend.

The 43-year-old from the Philippines won his first title on the Japan Golf Tour, and with it a place at July’s Open, without a caddie and using just 11 clubs. He opted to remove a couple of irons to make his bag lighter to carry.

"Since there are fewer choices, I can save the trouble of choosing and play easily," said Pagunsan of a more back-to-basics approach. In this game of mind-mangling options, sometimes less is more.


With schedules obliterated last year, it was nice to see the return of championship amateur golf to the domestic scene over the weekend. Englishman Callan Barrow won the Scottish Open Strokeplay title at Southerness while Edinburgh’s Hannah Darling joined decorated names like Catriona Matthew and Annika Sorenstam on the St Rule Trophy.

Darling will now turn her focus to being top of the class again in the Scottish Women’s Amateur Championship at Gullane this weekend. Once she’s got three school exams out of the way first, that is.

In her player bio, the talented, bubbly Darling, who cleaned up in the junior ranks, once stated that she “wants to be the best female player in the world.” Who said us Scots are dour, pessimists?