James Evangelo Nitties, take a bow. A 5-under 65 on day 1 of the first tournament in the feeder Web Tour, in Panama of all places, is not to be sneezed at.
The General Pattern likes Nitties. He’s from Newcastle. Is a bit of a rogue. Dresses like a human, not a golfer. Takes the piss out of himself on reality TV, and real TV. Has heaps of talent, but is prone to brain explosions. Perhaps we see some of ourselves in the Nitties of the world, rather than the automatons and religious freaks that dominate US golf?
After all, this is a guy who blows a surefire US Tour Card by sleeping in. Medicated – legally – for the ‘flu. He wasted a whole year last year, missing cuts, racking up his signature double bogeys but also chucking in triples and quads, and The General Pattern was about to leave the fanclub… and then we read that he was grieving for the dad he had just lost. So we loved him even more. I mean, imagine yourself, scrounging around for $5000 paycheques in scungy US second-tier towns, with 150 other hopeful sharks and yesterday’s men, the whole time burning inside because you miss your dad. The golf flame must really burn in these young men and women, to suffer that week after week.
There’s a (small) movie in it.
Anyway, Nitties came back to Australia over the summer and finally found some form. Who knows, finally he found some peace? We didn’t read anything about him, unlike the personal tragedies of the Allenbies and Applebies of the past, or the golfing grief of British Open butterfingers Adam Scott – and who can blame the media, there are hundreds of Nitties out there, all desperate for a crack. The bottom reaches of the tennis tour must be the same, satellite tournaments and begging for wildcards. Agassi’s autobiography gives a splendid picture of this “life”.
This time of year, I welcome the onset of autumn, with it’s cooler nights and bluer skies, the return of football to Australia, the lure of a winter ahead, especially one with an Ashes series. And it’s the US Masters Golf, held 11-14 April this year, that heralds its arrival. I give praise. And this year, and every year, I take pause, and remember the 500 or so hard-working golfers that aren’t quite good enough for Augusta. Better than your club Pro, able to shoot a 60, but just not quite good enough. A missed putt here and a duffed chip there. In Nitties’ case, pars that become bogeys, and bogeys that become killer doubles. If only…
They’ll play the Louisiana Open for $500K total before the Masters. And then they’ll be in Midland, Texas, for a $600K purse, on Masters weekend, and lightning could kill the lot of them and the world would not avert its gaze from Augusta. Some of them will fly to Sao Paulo for the Brazil Open in between. Meanwhile, the Masters winner will pocket around $1.5M.
That’s as it should be.
Still, I’ll take pause during the Masters, even during that glorious Monday morning prime time back 9, the single greatest 2 hours of the year, every year, and check how Nitties and the rest are going in Texas.
They are the VFL footballer, who plays for Coburg for 10 years and is never quite good enough for the AFL. They are the cricketers who fill in at Sheffield Shield or County level when the test stars are unavailable. The footsoldiers of the lower football divisions in England.
To me, they are heroes. Some day, some of them will graduate to the big tour, and be famous for a day. Or two.
In the meantime, they remain the sporting world’s tired, its poor, its huddled masses. LIberty’s wretched refuse of teeming shores.
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