Imagine being paid to write about golf!
Dave Perkins covered the sport in his 40 years as a sports writer, a good chunk of that with the Toronto Star.
Perkins, whom I had the privilege of working beside occasionally during my 21 years with the Toronto Sun, covered 58 golf majors, 10 Ryder and/or Presidents Cups, and countless tournaments of one sort or another in the sport. He also had opportunities to play some of the best courses in the world and interview the best of the best from numerous eras.
In his new book, Fun And Games, My 40 Years Writing Sports, Perkins chronicles the many experiences he had working in what newspapers once referred to as the “toy department.” Long before sports became a big business with media properties owning sports franchises, TV and radio networks providing round-the-clock coverage every day of the week and websites popping up like dandelions, the sports department was the place to work if you wanted to write about fun and games. Unlike the news department in which reporters covered crime, death, politics and scandal, the sports department was, by and large, devoid of serious issues.
It still is for the most part; it’s just the landscape has changed because of the salaries of the athletes, the value of franchises and social media making athletes and their infidelities and crimes and misdemeanors open season.
Perkins, of Perky as he is known in the business, covered golf during the rise of Tiger Woods and offers up some interesting anecdotes. Perkins said his most memorable moment in all his years of covering sports was the 2003 Presidents Cup played over the Fancourt course in George, South Africa. There were several reasons why it stood out for Perkins: the distance traveled to such a beautiful and exotic part of the world, the quality of the competition, the presence of South African president Nelson Mandela, the chance to turn the trip into a vacation and, lastly, asking Tiger a personal question, specifically whether he had given girlfriend Elin Nordegren an engagement ring. A wire photo appeared to show Nordegren wearing a large engagement ring and an employee at the Star contacted Perkins to ask Tiger if he popped the question to his girlfriend. Tiger knew Perkins as a reporter, but otherwise the two did not have any particularly buddy-buddy relationship. So after the tournament, Perkins sidled up to Tiger and mentioned to him that congratulations were in order. Tiger was taken aback, wondering what Perkins was referring to. Dave mentioned the engagement ring, to which Tiger said: “Are you nuts.” Tiger was planning to give his girlfriend an engagement ring, but hadn’t done so. The photo was simply an optical illusion created by the long-distance framing of an image. Perkins settled the misunderstanding with Tiger and never wrote about it (until now).
Perkins mentioned that following the tournament, which went into a playoff that ended in darkness, he played at a course that had a water hazard containing crocodiles and the bush was not to be entered under any circumstances.
Photo cred: https://www.thestar.com
There are some other interesting golf tidbits in the book, including the intro in which Perkins mentioned how he brought up the subject of Tiger’s infidelity to Arnold Palmer, naively thinking the legend of the links might respond. Palmer responded: “Now sure what you mean. I am sure we all have stories we wouldn’t want told unless we were dead – or our wives were.”
Perkins indicates in the book he enjoyed covering golf the most of all the sports because there were no night games, and it took him to nice places, just about everyone was civil and the press was usually treated extremely well.
“As readers possibly know, covering golf tournaments can sometimes be a good game for a lazy man,” he writes.
Essentially, the press (or the media as it’s now known to include bloggers and the like) sit in a tent and the golfers are brought in and quote sheets supplied. For the most part, you sit around all day for the story to develop. He recalled the 1999 British Open in which Frenchman Jean Van de Velde had a three-shot lead heading into the final hole and promptly blew it and then lost in a playoff to Paul Lawrie, who had been 10 strokes back heading into the final round. Perkins, like many others writing about the Carnoustie meltdown, was aghast at the result. He had a classic opening – what’s called the lead – of what happened in his game-day story: “Mon dieu. We’ve found the missing Marx Brother. He plays golf. Jean Van de Velde authorized a French farce of unimaginable proportions by handing away the greatest championship in golf in a brie-brained performance that was comedy turned into tragedy.”
Looking upon it in retrospect, Perkins wrote: “It might be the most remarkable screwup I’ve ever seen – and I watched Kenny Williams run the bases, remember.”
I’m about a third of the way into the book and I’m sure there will be more golf tidbits. I recommend this book as something to while away the hours and live through the experiences Perkins had in the toy department.
It reminded me of some of my own experiences. Sports should never be taken too seriously.
This post was originally published by Knetgolf on September 20, 2016. Knetgolf was acquired by LostGolfBalls.