Get the beers on ice – Tiger’s coming

Show me the money - Tiger Woods

Show me the money - Tiger Woods

Just a few short weeks after welcoming Tiger Woods back to the game, golf has found itself embroiled in a bitter controversy surrounding the world’s greatest player.

The biggest stooshie in world golf at the moment seems to be that a bunch of Australians trying to run a golf tournament have dared to dangle a brown envelope containing $3m in unmarked bills in front of Woods’ nose while making cooing noises and come here gestures in a bid to get him to come to their party.

Woods has now pocketed the brown envelope and booked his flight to play in the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath in Melbourne in November. And you can’t blame him.

And you know what? You can’t blame the organisers either. In times when there’s more golf tournaments than there are weeks of the year, not to mention the current economic gloom, it’s more important than ever for organisers to make their tournament stand out from the crowd and appeal to sponsors.

The column inches already afforded to a tournament that is still eight months away has entirely vindicated their decision and the media circus that will surround Woods in Melbourne before, during and after his first appearance Down Under in more than a decade will give the Australiasian Tour a profile it has never before enjoyed, as well as having the sponsors drooling.

Of course, it is because part of the $3m stumped up for Woods’ appearance is reportedly coming from the Victoria state government that has caused the controversy, even though state premier John Brumby has claimed it will bring in $19m to the economy. I’m not sure how many bottles of Toohey’s Extra Dry it took to come up with that figure, it does seem a bit excessive, but there’s no doubt that when Tiger comes to town it will be big business and he’ll more than pay for his appearance fee.

Indeed, top Australian golfer Stuart Appleby put it pretty bluntly and risked the wrath of the “common man” when he said: “It will be great for the game and bring out a lot of people who haven’t seen him before, in person, not on a video game.

“There’s a lot of people hurting in Australia, and they might look negatively that one guy is paid $3m just to turn up.  The common man won’t understand the business model because the government is paying for it. They might not see the money he brings in.”

Another major bone of contention is the perceived fact that it will take the shine off the Australian Open, staged just two weeks later and historically the more prestigious of the two tournaments. Five-time Open champion and arguably Australia’s greatest ever golfer, Peter Thomson, has waded into the debate by reportedly saying: “In my view it’s going to damage our national Open. He won’t be playing in that but it sucks up potential sponsorship.”

What Thomson may be failing to take into account is that Tiger’s appearances in anything but the big tournaments are a rarity, not least those that involve travelling halfway round the world to play on a tour as small as the Australiasian Tour.

The fact that he is willing to play, albeit thanks to a wad of cash, and that it coincides with a free week is a real coup and not something that organisers could have turned their noses up at.

Who’s to say they didn’t try to get him to the Australian Open a fortnight later? The fact that the Open falls on the same dates as the LG Skins match, or the week before Tiger’s own rearranged Chevron World Challenge Match renders it improbable in the extreme that he would have agreed to play on the opposite side of the planet for even double the $3m he is already receiving.

Australian golf fans should be applauding the tournament organisers and the Victoria state government for their ambition while getting the beers on ice and preparing to see one of the greatest sportsmen alive perform in the flesh.

Of course, I have’t yet touched on the frightening consequences that money, and who has most of it, is now having and will continue to have on the game of golf. But that’s for another blog entirely.

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Is the pen mightier than the recorder?

While catching up on some of the old media gossip in Scotland recently, I stumbled across this debate about shorthand on allmediascotland.com

In it Mike Boyle, course co-ordinator of HND Practical Journalism and NCTJ Journalism at Cardonald College, Glasgow, extols the virtues of the art of shorthand after it was dropped as an option from the BA Journalism and Creative Writing degree at Strathclyde University.

I couldn’t help but wade in and you’ll see my tuppence worth as well as a few others at the bottom of the article. (I particularly like Dorothy-Grace Elder’s frisking anecdote in a Russian jail.)

When I left Napier University, shorthand was probably the only useful skill I had learned (other than a little bit of media law) and the rest I learned on the job – and very quickly at that.

I’m actually lucky I passed it to be honest because my attendance record at the shorthand classes with the Tartan Temptress June Stobie (she had a rather fetching tartan jacket) was less than exemplary.

It was first thing on a Thursday morning you see and Wednesday afternoon’s was when the university football team’s played followed by the obligatory night out.

My old mucker and flatmate Gordon Smart, now flying high on media power lists across the globe as The Sun’s Bizarre editor, also ran a Wednesday club night, Shark, at one our favoured evening retreats where the football team would generally drink the night and much of the morning away.

The result was, more often than not, a Thursday morning hangover and a big cross (isn’t that Teeline shorthand for accident?) next to the names Connor and Smart on June’s attendance sheet.

But we both passed and I’m so grateful to June for beating it into us. I couldn’t have got through those employment tribunals and Haddington Sheriff Court trials without it.

Maintaining e-cred is hard work

Jings, crivens and help ma boab! Is that really more than a year since my last blog?

It’s amazing how much time it takes to maintain your e-cred in these new-fangled technological times – and I’ve not even bothered with the Facebook’s, Linkedin’s and Twitter’s of this crazy interactive world yet.

For the past year I’ve been tremendously busy uprooting my family, moving to Portsmouth, working with golf marketing company The Azalea Group and news editing golf magazine Fairway to Green.

It would be mostly true to say that I’ve been too busy to keep this blog up but the whole truth and nothing but the truth would also include the fact that sometimes I forgot and other times I just couldn’t be arsed.

Sadly my time at Azalea and Fairway to Green has come to an end but throughout the past year I have had the privilege to work with and meet some amazing people (and some not so), learn more about the golf industry and generally indulge my passion for the game of golf.

I’ll probably post in more detail at a later date about my experiences at Azalea and Fairway to Green.

However, what all this means – other than the fact that I’m looking for a job (note to all prospective employers and commissioning editors) – is that I can resurrect this blog and hopefully this time keep it going even when I do find a new job.

Here’s to pastures new……..

Slow play is killing golf – but what’s the rush?

With Tiger Woods and Adam Scott recently adding to the growing voices of discontent about slow play in the professional ranks, it has never been more of an issue in world golf.

Amateur and weekend golfers do not escape the criticism either with slow players taking the blame for the increasing number of golfers giving up the game because “they just don’t have the time.”

Logjammed weekend courses and 5-6 hour rounds are signalling the death knell for the game according to many commentators, agitators and proliferators.

But while I won’t defend the five-hour plus game in either professional or amateur golf, I do find myself wondering when golf changed from being an enjoyable yet competitive form of escapism to a frantic dash round 18 holes which leaves me more flustered than when I stepped onto the tee in the first place.

My article here at GOLFmagic.com argues why golfers should be allowed to play at their own pace (within reason). It’s safe to say judging by the comments, that not everyone agrees.

If any keen golfers haven’t yet checked out GOLFmagic.com then they should do so when they have a chance. Edited by Bob Warters, who formerly edited Today’s Golfer, FORE! and Golf Weekly, it is a great mix of serious reviews, contentious debates and light-hearted meanders down golfing memory lane.

As if that’s not enough, Bob has also agreed – under no duress whatsoever – to let me submit regular feature articles to the site. What more could you ask?

City Senne hits the heights of Cumbernauld

I’ve been a bit lax lately on the old blog posting, for which I can only apologise.

I’ve actually been keeping myself busy with the ridiculous notion of actually working for a living in order to feed and clothe my son, Andrew who, at just five-months-old, seems to eat more than I do on a weekly basis!

Anyway, one of the things I have been working on is this great story below about the former captain of the Botswanan national football team who has just signed for Eastfield AFC in the Scottish amateur leagues.

Leith Athletic actually played Eastfield a few weeks ago but thankfully City’s international clearance hadn’t come through in time and we didn’t have to line up against him.

Having seen some of his ball skills during the photoshoot I have no doubt he’ll be a great addition to Eastfield’s squad. He also told me that his wife is expecting their first baby in a couple of months so he’ll soon be finding out just how much a five-month-old eats.

All the best to City and his new team. He is a genuinely nice guy and I look forward to coming up against him for Leith in the future.

Sadly, only the Scottish Daily Express saw the merit in this story while all the other newspapers deemed it unworthy of their pages – although BBC’s Reporting Scotland also carried a piece. I might be biased but I think his is a story worth telling. I’ll let you decide for yourself:

city-senne16.jpg

BY DAVID CONNOR 

THE former captain of the Botswanan national football team has made a comeback to football – by signing for a lowly Scottish amateur side.

Gofhamodimo “City” Senne is a national hero in his native country and more used to playing in front of packed stadiums against some of Africa’s greatest ever players.

But the man who captained his country for eight years has now swapped rubbing shoulders with the glitterati of African football to turn out in dreary Lanarkshire for Cumbernauld-outfit Eastfield AFC.

City, who has played against African legends such as Cameroon stars Roger Milla and Francois Omam-Biyik, former Marseille striker Abedi Pele and ex-Leeds favourites Tony Yeboah and Lucas Radebe, will now be pitting his football wits against Scotland’s amateur players on muddy council parks in the Central Scottish Amateur Football League.

City, now 42, said the toughest thing about adapting to the Scottish game is the inclement weather and the pace of the game.

He said: “I am really enjoying playing football again and it doesn’t matter what level you play. My age is against me but I am still fit and as a footballer, when someone asks you for a game of football you don’t say no.

“The weather is really difficult because it is so cold. I am used to temperatures of around 30 degrees in Botswana so it is strange. As a defender, I was always used to getting a lot of time on the ball and being able to pass it but the Scottish players close you down a lot quicker and it will take a bit of getting used to.

“The players also shout a lot but I have no problem understanding them. In football you communicate through movement and you know where people want the ball to be played.

“I knew a little bit about Scottish football before I came here. I had heard of Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Motherwell. They are very old and famous clubs. Henrik Larsson is also very famous and scored a lot of goals for Celtic before going to Barcelona and Manchester United.

The defender, who also captained Botswana’s top club side Gaborone United, signed for the Cumbernauld side after a getting a job with the brother of Eastfield’s manager.

City came to Scotland to study at the LSMT Business school in Glasgow and to pay his way he took a job alongside Lee Brown – brother of Eastfield manager Chris – in a electrical retail warehouse.

Chris, 32, said: “City was working with my brother and when they found out they had a mutual interest in football they swapped stories and eventually Lee convinced him to come along to our training.

“You can see that he has played at a good level and he’s still in very good shape – there’s not an ounce of fat on him.“He’ll definitely bring a bit of experience to our side as we have a fairly young team and he will hopefully be able to bring on a few of the younger boys.

“He’s played against some unbelieveable players and although it is a different level at Eastfield he still plays with great enthusiasm. He will be a great signing for us.

Gus Mackay, president of the Scottish Amateur Football Association said: “My congratulations to Eastfield AFC for having attracted a player with such an international pedigree as City Senne.

“Scottish amateur football is by far the biggest participation sport in Scotland and there are players of all abilities from various backgrounds playing on parks every week across the country.

“If anyone wants to find out how to get involved they can visit the SAFA website, www.TheSAFA.org.uk.”

ENDS

PS Thanks to both Lorenzo Dalberto of Deadline Press & Picture Agency and City Senne for agreeing to take part in a photoshoot during a sub-zero evening in Cumbernauld. It was certainly a long way from both Italy and Botswana respectively.

Leith Athletic 3 v 1 West Kilbride

If a convincing win and performance on a Saturday afternoon always affords a more enjoyable Saturday evening, it’s safe to say the Leith Athletic players would have had a few sore heads on the Sunday morning.

A scintillating start to their sixth round Scottish Cup tie with West Kilbride saw the Edinburgh-side blow away the visitors with three quickfire goals in the opening 30 minutes to send them into the last 16 of the country’s biggest sporting competition.

From the first whistle, and with the wind at their backs,  the fired-up Leith side went straight for the jugular against the much-fancied – and much-hyped – Ayrshire side.

There had been whispers that the visitors were among the favourites to lift the trophy this year, particularly with their good home form but in truth, they were unable to live with a Leith side who outfought and outplayed them in every department.

The writing was on the wall as early as the second minute when Jamie Lauder danced his way past three challenges on the left wing before rolling the ball into the box where the onrushing Rory Stewart coolly dispatched into the corner of the net.

The roar from both on the park and the sidelines rivalled anything to come from nearby Easter Road where Hibs were taking on Celtic on SPL duty and within 10 minutes there was more reason to raise the decibel level again.

Andy Penman looked to burst through the West Kilbride defence with a neat turn of pace before he was scythed down as he raced through on goal. The referee, perhaps feeling pangs of sympathy for the way the visitors were being ripped apart in the opening stages, decided not to even book the West Kilbride no4 when, in truth, he should have seen red for the challenge.

But that was quickly forgotten when Lauder stepped up to expertly curl the resultant free-kick around the wall and under the body of the despairing keeper.

It had been a rip-roaring start but Leith weren’t finished there and before the half hour mark had been reached they found themselves three goals to the good when Andy Fraser flicked on an Iain Gordon clearance for Stevie Radsynski to make no mistake and fire low past the goalkeeper from 18 yards.

A smart Gordon save low to his right following a long throw in kept Leith’s three-goal cushion in tact going in to half time and the visitors faced a mountain to climb to stay in the competition.

A professional second half performance was called for against the wind and Leith duly delivered, managing to contain the best West Kilbride had to throw at them while still providing a real threat at the other end on the break.

The visitors’ best chances were being fashioned from corner kicks and long throw-ins as they struggled to break down a superbly organised Leith defence.

Gordon pulled off another good save when he backpedalled to touch a looping header over the bar and another chance was averted when David Connor managed to toe the ball away from West Kilbride’s no8 at the back post when he was faced with a simple tap-in.

West Kilbride did manage to pull a goal back and again, the chance came from a long throw-in which the Leith defence, for once, failed to clear and the no9 was able to bundle the ball home at the back post.

As the game wore on, the visitors were beginning to realise they wouldn’t breach the Leith defence again and with 10 minutes remaining their chance completely evaporated when no7 saw red for a second bookable offence.

Radsynski had a chance to put a bit more gloss on the win when he found himself one-on-one with the keeper with just minutes remaining but he elected to try and square the ball to substitute Mattie Hutchison rather than shoot and the chance was lost.

Nevertheless, the win was already in the bag and Leith were left looking forward to a last-16 tie with a local derby agaisnst either Redhall or Lothian Thistle.

Before that, Leith are back on league duty against promoted Buchanan Thistle at home, KO 2pm. Thistle’s last visit to the Links saw them upset the odds with a 2-1 cup tie victory in December 2006 and the Leith boys are sure to have revenge on their minds.

Man of the match: There wasn’t a failure in a Leith jersey and no shortage of candidates. Radsynski and Lauder are worth mentions for their contributions but this was the best game I have seen Dougie Thom have in a Leith jersey. The left back was strong going forward as usual but added a steely dimension to his defensive game to win numerous tackles and headers before starting the Leith attack.

Dick of the day: No Leith contenders for this one on the day so it goes to absent midfielder Chris Beaton who decided swapping a windswept Scottish Cup tie in Leith for the sunshine of Dubai was a good idea. After that performance, it could be a while before he finds himself in the team again.

Leith (4-4-2): Gordon, Young, M Stewart, Wallace, Thom; Fraser (Hutchison), Connor (Hunter), R Stewart, Lauder; Penman (Fairbairn), Radsynski

Subs not used: McCall, Milligan

MMA fighters – athletes or thugs?

As a sports writer with no meaningful political leanings it is not often that I feel compelled to jump into the political ring and throw a few punches at the people who run this country.

However, this is one such occasion where I feel I have no choice but to don the gloves, pop in the gumshield, look out my spitbucket and ready myself for action (fear not, the fighting analogies will become apparent in a minute – just as soon as the bell rings). 

 Ding ding, round 1.

My opponent for the day is Sandra White MSP and the reason for this verbal joust is her comments towards the thousands of people in this country (and millions abroad) who partake in the sport of MMA (mixed martial arts).

Despite the fact that elite competitors in this sport will train upwards of four hours a day, spend years learning specialist techniques and skills from a variety of fighting disciplines and look after their bodies with the utmost care and attention by stringently regulating intake of fats, sugars and alcohol, the right honorouable Sandra White has branded it human cock fighting rather than a sport.

Her comments, on a Scotland Today news bulletin – which asks whether fighters are thugs or athletes – can be seen on the video below.

Mrs White has saddled up and mounted her high horse on this particular occasion because of the upcoming MAX Xtreme Fighting event in Glasgow next month. The event at the Braehead arena on 15 March will attract around 4000 spectators and will see some of the most highly trained fighters on the planet compete.

However, her attitude is a real roundhouse to the face of these fighters who display the kind of dedication and determination that is so lacking in this country – including from many of our MSP’s.

Who is she to detract from the skill and athleticism of these fighters and to brand their sport “human cock-fighting” when she has never been to an event? What makes them any different from footballers, rugby players, racing drivers, jockeys and boxers?

Every time they participate in their chosen sport they risk serious injury or even death. Just last weekend Arsenal forward Eduardo saw his leg shattered in a challenge and I could spend all day listing other serious injuries (and sadly, worse) in other sports.

Yet they are not faced with the same derision and calls for their sport to be outlawed. There can be no doubt there is an element of danger to MMA but that is the edge on which many sports are based and  is what separates elite athletes from normal human beings.

MMA fighters have spent years becoming expert in accepted sports such as boxing, Karate, Tai Kwon Do, ju-jutsu, wrestling and Muay Thai to name just a few. They then pull all of these disciplines together to perfect the ultimate combat style.

Sandra White on the other hand, spends her days bickering with opponents, engaging in political one-upmanship, trying to make the most friends, arguing about which party has the best ideas and telling anyone who will listen that they could do it so much better. The Scottish Parliament – powerful political chamber or primary school playground?