When looking from a viewer’s perspective, golf should really make for an unwatchable spectacle. The ball is miniscule, barley visible from even a short distance, while the ‘staccato’ nature of the game leaves untimely gaps – and hundreds of yards – between each shot.
Yet despite all this golf continues to reign as one of most popular sports on the face of the Earth.
To further grow the community aspect of golf, blended scotch whiskey brand Ballantine’s have created a global community for amateur golfers called the Ballantine’s Golf Club.
The Ballantine’s Golf Club is the club for everyone in golf, however they choose to enjoy it. It's a place that explores and celebrates golf around the world - whether that be on the green or from behind the ropes.
Following on from a successful launch last year with the ever enigmatic Ian Poulter as Captain of the of the Ballantine’s Golf Club, 2016 sees the famed blue jacket passed on to former Ryder Cup captain and winner Paul McGinley. I sat down with Paul McGinley in the build up to the 2015 Scottish Open to find out more about his latest role in golf.
With team sports such as football, you cannot play without your teammates, but golf is in essence an individual sport. Did you find it hard to adjust the team element of the Ryder Cup?
No. I felt it was easier, I definitely felt it was easier. A lot of players feel more pressure when playing as part of a team, I actually felt less pressure. I feel there’s more a sense of a shared responsibility, and where there’s a shared responsibility, I feel that there is pressure off rather than pressure on. The fact that I was thinking that I could have a bad day and the team would still win took the shackles off and allowed me to play freely. It elevated my game, because when you play on your own, you know that if you have a bad game you lose that’s it, whereas in a team, you can have a bad day and the team can still win. Just that thought, that very thought, made me feel free-er and as a result I played better.
You’ve always had a friendly rivalry with Ian Poulter and now you’ve taken over him as Captain of the Ballantine’s Golf Club. Is there anything that you’re planning on doing differently?
The one thing I really want to learn about and need to learn about is social media. I want to get better on social media. I mean Ian Poulter was the King of social media from a golf point of view and I’ve just started on Twitter...
... and you’re doing very well on all accounts, getting about 1000 followers every hour when we last checked.
For me to have a better social profile is very important for the Ballantine’s golf club. I’ve learned a lot from Ian Poulter already, and he’s still giving me lessons about how to get the value out of it, what people like on Twitter and what people don’t like. It’s a whole new world for me; in a lot of ways I’m like an old fashioned guy and I’m being dragged into the modern world and I’m having to learn very quickly how it works.
How would you describe your time as Ryder Cup Captain?
I was two years Ryder Cup Captain and looking back on it now and I see it as a play in the West end – someone gave me an idea, I wrote the script, I casted the actors, I built the scene, I’ve convinced the actors of the story. I’ve energised them, I’ve trained them I’ve put a strategy in place for it. We had an opening night, and we opened to a massive success and the day after, we all went back to our lives again. It was sad, it was all over and everyone went off to do their own thing. It’s kind of how I saw my two years as captain.
The best moment wasn’t the ecstasy of winning, the best moment were the little stories, the little elements that came into the week. Like the story I told of Ian Poulter earlier, they are the things, they are the things that connect us as a team. One of my fondest memories is of Rory Mcilroy and Stephen Gallagher - one of the biggest sports stars anywhere in the world, with one of the local boys - being photographed at 4am in the morning, both with their tops off, in tartan and three sheets to the wind with all the drink they’ve had, so comfortable in the environment and each others company. Those are the kind of moments that make the whole thing really special, the memories that give me goosebumps.
From what I can see, the Ballantine’s Golf Club helps bring together golf lovers from communities all over the world. How important was community in your own personal development? Do you think you played better as part of a team?
Your point is absolutely right, that is what the Ballantine’s Golf Club is all about, that’s why it was put together. My career as a golfer was a good one, I had a very successful career, but when I played as part of a team I always felt that it took my game to a different level, added a different intensity when I had my teammates. I often look back and wondered why, when I play as part of a team why did I play to so much a higher standard. No matter how hight the pressure I always played a better game. I think that comes down to
When you grow up in a county village and you aspire to represent that county, and when you aspire and reach that county level you want to play at national level and at the time your always connecting back to the town and village you come from. And that’s what I tried to do for the Ryder Cup, get each player relating back to his roots of where and why they started playing golf.
"What I like about the Ballantine’s Golf Club is that it brings together different people from around the world – and it doesn’t cost any money to join. It’s just about people with shared common interests, through the game of golf." ~ Paul McGinley
As a former Ryder Cup captain you’ve no doubt had to give advice; words to rally your charges. What advice have you received that has helped you on your journey?
I remember when I turned professional, in 1992, and I had dinner with Jack Nicklaus who [I believe] is the greatest player who ever played the game. At the end of dinner, we were leaving the restaurant and he said to me:
“Paul you’re just starting out your career, in the professional game of golf. I’m the most successful player that’s ever played the game, and I’ve won more tournaments than anyone has ever won before, and I’ve spent 90% of my time losing at this game, and only 10% winning.” - Jack Nicklaus
And that puts it in perspective just how difficult this game is. The top Tennis players spend 95% of their time winning 5% losing. Golf is probably the only sport where if you lose 25 times and win twice a year, it’s a brilliant year. So that puts everything into perspective, about how difficult Golf is, no matter how good you are.
EDITOR | SAMSON