THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: A sporting lesson for life

Rev David Clarke.
Rev David Clarke.

Ryder Cup mania was at fever pitch last week-end, as a rampant American team regained the trophy, despite the valiant efforts of Mr. McIlroy

Sam Ryder, the businessman from St. Alban’s in Hertfordshire, who made his fortune selling packets of seeds through the post for a penny, could hardly have envisaged how the competition he inaugurated would capture the imagination of the golfing fraternity.

Let’s not forget that many despise the game of golf. Mark Twain claimed that golf was a good walk spoiled’, while Winston Churchill mischievously said, ‘Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”.

And in the eyes of many, golfers don’t rate much better. When Anthony Crosland (he who once vowed to close every grammar school in Britain) attempted to point out to a Labour colleague the shortcomings of Harold Wilson, he eventually spluttered, ‘Why the ****** (expletive deleted) man plays golf!’

Yet, in an era where sport is tarnished by evidence of drug-taking and corruption, golf remains unscathed as a sport where players compete holding an accepted standard of honesty and sportsmanship.

A story about a golfing legend greatest illustrates the point. Bobby Jones, an amateur player who won a Grand Slam in one calendar year, before retiring at the age of 28. once struck a shot into a wooded area. His rescue shot moved only a few feet, before he played his third shot unto the fairway. his playing partners complimented him on his honesty when he told them of the fluffed shot among the trees. “Well”, he said, “you might as well praise me for not robbing a bank!” No praise is needed, he was saying, when you are simply obeying the rules.

His action tallies with the Bible’s description of the man who is acceptable to God. The author of Psalm 15 addresses the question, ‘Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? Among the qualities that happy man possesses is this; he ‘keeps his oath, even when it hurts’(vs 4). That’s a behaviour pattern that applies to more than sport.