I was contemplating the fickle nature of glory and how we hoard our occasional triumphs, however small or large, as I chatted this week to one of the world’s most successful athletes, the Australian golfer and current US Masters Champion, Adam Scott.
The chat was surprising in a couple of ways. First, that he wasted his time talking to me. Or I to him. I make a point of rarely talking to professional athletes. They remind me of what it is to be fit and how I am somewhat removed from peak physical condition: about ten years of cable TV and Hawaiian Pizzas removed from peak condition. No good can come from loitering around professional athletes.
More particularly, I have all but abandoned my interest in golf since my golf buggy escaped down a near vertical incline at the now defunct Kangaroo Grounds Golf Links (read “converted paddock and surrounding escarpments”), narrowly missed a gaggle of tartaned spinsters on the third who gave me a right royal talking to, and was ultimately sacrificed to the depths of the eighth hole water hazard (read “dam”). The loss of the golf buggy was of no real consequence, as the Club professional (read “farmer”) with whom I had wasted an hour of my life concluded I had no aptitude whatsoever for the sport and likened my swing to one of the O’Toole Brothers embarking on a world record wood chop.
I thus came to my chat with the current world No.2 Adam Scott unburdened by any of the finer points of the game of golf.
I cut straight to the chase with Adam and suggested he needs a nickname.
All the sporting greats have nicknames. The Rocket, Rod Laver. The Don, Bradman. The Scud. Ok, not just the sporting greats.
But with golfing legends, a nickname is a prerequisite to designing a golf course in a vineyard or back page tabloid adulation. Greg Norman, The Great White Shark. Jack Nicklaus, The Golden Bear. Ben Hogan, The Hawk. Sam Snead, Slammin’ Sammy. Adam Scott….
Adam immediately responded with “the Little Shark”, in deference to his role model Greg Norman. To me, Little Shark equals flake. Little Shark smacks too much of a Friday night takeaway fish and chip order, “I’ll have a Little Shark, two dollars of chips and a potato cake, no vinegar, plenty of salt.” As nicknames go, the Little Shark connotes less veneration, and more high cholesterol. I told him as much and to his credit Adam immediately abandoned the idea of generating his own nickname.
We turned to Adam’s triumphs, most recently the US Masters, the Australian PGA, the Barclays, the Grand Slam and the Australian Masters.
It is true each sport has its own way of acknowledging victory. Formula One racing requires the winner to stand on a podium and grin as a nebuchadnezzar of Moet is emptied over him by two local beauties wearing less than Tony Abbott near sand. Olympic success involves the presentation of a sprig of some scrappy plant indigenous to the host City. Sumo wrestling is best not dwelt on.
One of the peculiarities about winning a golf tournament is that apart from the usual loot of the giant novelty cheque and the keys to a Japanese 4WD, the winner is required to don a winner’s jacket.
In the last two years, Adam Scott has slipped in and out of more jackets than Ryan Gosling at a Playboy Mansion housewarming.
The golf tournament winner’s jacket is distinguished not merely because it is ill fitting – how could it be otherwise when the identity of the victor, and therefore his measurements, are unknown until five minutes before the jacket is collected – but predominantly because of its distinctive colour. Colour is the key here.
In the case of the US Masters, the winner’s jacket is green. When I say green, I’m talking Green. Really Green. The Masters jacket Green is almost precisely the hue of Green last worn in public by Errol Flynn in his memorable portrayal of Robin Hood. Apparently the Masters Green coat is the official club coat of the Augusta Golf Club and has been standardised by Club zealots as Hunter Green, Colour Number 392 on the Official Pantone Colour chart, lest Giorgio Armani or Ralph Lauren get any ideas. Which suggests that a meeting of the Augusta Committee resembles less a gathering of some of Americas most powerful CEOs, and more a reunion of Little John, Will Scarlet and an assortment of unnamed Merry Men in Sherwood Forest.
Golf winner’s jackets are made to stand out in a crowd. Any crowd. The predominant criteria for the colour selection seems to be that no sane person would wear clothing of that colour by choice. In a sport hardly renowned for its sense of fashion – think Lee Trevino in chequered knickerbockers and yellow and pink knitted vests, Jack Nicklaus in tartan trousers with scarlet socks, John Daly in pretty much anything – selecting a golf winner’s jacket that eclipses the fashion choices of even its most colour blind aficionados is no mean feat. The Harbour Town Classic Tournament is a red tartan reminiscent of a ventriloquist dummy. The PGA Grand Slam in Bermuda is a faded pink number suggestive of clothing that has run in the wash. The Volvo Open in China is a gold jacket embroidered with dragons of the sort usually reserved for a Heads of State tropical convocation. And of course the Australian Masters is represented by a wattle coloured jacket.
It occurred to me as I was speaking to Adam Scott, he must have a wardrobe full of these appalling jackets. Where does Adam keep them? Why does Adam keep them? How long will Adam keep them?
Like all of us, over the years I’ve accumulated my fair share of crappy memorabilia clothing.
As Chairman of Major Events I was once required to visit Russia to help procure the World Swimming Championships. On the last night of the swimming meet, in an act of benevolence worthy of any Major golf tournament, the organisers presented me with a custom-made fluorescent orange double breaster bearing either the embroidered logo of the Organising Committee or a seamstress error on the breast pocket.
After a couple of short speeches and a series of toasts involving four bottles of vodka, the President and the Vice President helped me into my special orange Jacket. As it turned out, their help was entirely necessary because whilst the body of the jacket was enormous the sleeves were extremely short and tight. The jacket seemed to have been perfectly tailored to the morphology of the adult male gorilla. I eventually managed to force my hands down both bright orange sleeves. And stood there, swimming in orange polyester, sleeves terminated approximately mid forearm, grinning in gratitude. I never saw myself, but I’m fairly confident the general impression I created was that of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at a parole hearing. If a silverback had been detained at Guantanamo Bay
The point of my story is less about the circumstances in which such keepsakes are acquired, and more about how they are retained.
We cherish our hard won trophies and imbue them with our memories. We cling to our mementos as though they are relics of the holy cross and, like Voldemort’s horcrux, some part of our soul is bound to their continued possession.
It was William Morris who enjoined “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Morris was right. By his criteria, my wardrobe needs to be cleared. My orange apeman jacket, my broken skis, my late eighties Neighbour’s T shirt and my Atlanta Olympics embroidered skivvy all need to hit the nature strip. But then again, by the same criteria, so does the dog and at least one of the children.
Adam Scott does not require a nickname, nor even a Colour 392 Hunter Green jacket as proof of his golfing greatness. And my memories of Russia and chlorinated hangovers will endure whatever hangs in my wardrobe.
The time has come to empty the wardrobe. As Harold Pinter, a man who had much to remember, famously reminded us, “There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.”
Tomorrow I dispose of the orange Russian apeman swimming jacket. Yet again.