For many of us who play golf, or at least attempt to play golf, futility tends to be the name of the game. Enjoyable futility, but futility nevertheless.

Some days, for instance, I can start a round with an eight, a five, a seven and a six. And on other days, I just can’t get a decent score going at all.

One of the best things about this noble pursuit, of course, is that it provides a warm, welcoming haven for our unwavering ineptitude.

In fact, golf actively encourages us to keep clattering our heads off the brick wall of incompetence with promises that we can actually improve as long as we take a series of costly measures that helps to keep the industry as a whole ticking over.

So, what do we do? That’s right, we fork out for lessons here, expensive new clubs there and pricey, cutting-edge balls everywhere. The idiots that we are, eh?

In this respect, the words of Churchill continue to ring true. “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

For those who have to play this game for a living, the burdens of golf’s toils and troubles can become too much to bear. Take Matteo Manassero, for example.

“I literally couldn’t play anymore,” said the Italian of his morale-sapping slide into oblivion after a period of great pomp and prosperity. “Golf had become too heavy on me.”

Manassero, who burst onto the scene by winning the Amateur Championship as a 16-year-old in 2009 before going on the reel off a variety of record-breaking feats on the DP World Tour, stepped away from the game in 2019.

Here in 2023, the 30-year-old is back in the big time after sealing promotion to the DP World Tour through the Challenge Tour rankings at the conclusion of Sunday’s Grand Final in Mallorca.

Professional golf, with all its complex demands, is a desperately unforgiving, brutal business where any fragility can be ruthlessly exposed. Manassero’s well-documented spiral down the order is proof of that.

Having joined the paid ranks in 2010, just after his 17th birthday, he made the kind of mighty leaps that Bob Beamon used to conjure in the long jump pit.

By 2013 he had won four tour titles, including the flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and had reached No 25 in the world. During that annus horribilis of 2019, however, he was 1133rd on the global pecking order and had plumbed the kind of depths usually reserved for a maritime wreck. It’s a terribly fickle old game.

Such was Manassero’s rapid rise as a teenager, he never had to slog his way up through the lower rungs of pro golf but a few steps back in recent years has aided his renaissance.

Given that he had a vast mountain to climb to return to his previous majesty, it was perhaps fitting that he won on the foothills of the third-tier Alps Tour back in 2020.

His maiden victory on the Challenge Tour earlier this season in Denmark, meanwhile, came on the 10th anniversary of that aforementioned BMW PGA Championship conquest.

The magnitude of the win may have not resonated far and wide like his Wentworth triumph of 2013 but, in the wider scheme of his career resurgence, it was a hugely significant moment.

“Making progress doesn't come from trying to recreate what I did ten years ago,” said Manassero, who could’ve been a poster boy for the first Ryder Cup on Italian soil. “So, I think I will enjoy next season in some ways more than I did when I was on the DP World Tour the first time.”

The Challenge Tour can be both a proven breeding ground for the next generation of up-and-coming stars and a place of salvation where the careers of those who have fallen on hard times can be galvanised.

Another Italian, Andrea Pavan, was among this year’s graduates having endured a quite startling loss of form in recent seasons.

After winning his second DP World Tour title in 2019, the 34-year-old made just three cuts in 2020 and two in 2021. That harrowing 2020 campaign featured 10 rounds in the 80s while his scoring average was more than four shots worse than the overall average on tour.

Digging himself out of the despairing hole he found himself in just about required a foreman and some heavy excavating machinery.

Pavan, like Manassero, has dragged himself out of those doldrums, though. It’s hopefully now a case of onwards and upwards. Welcome back, lads.


Your correspondent had the pleasure of speaking at the annual gents’ prize giving shindig at East Renfrewshire Golf Club the other week.

A big thank you, then, to the good folk there who wined and dined me, then sat through my haverings, anecdotes and cornball gags that were so old, they just about had to be started with a whip.

I’m always slightly in awe of folk who actually get to savour any form of golfing glory. Because winning in this game, at whatever level, is not easy.

Congratulations, then, to all the winners at clubs around the land during 2023. As for the rest of us? Well, I steer you back in the direction of that Churchillian observation about success earlier in this column.