Date: September 10, 2013
Author: Mike Clayton /

Paying attention to Thomson’s perspective

I have, for as long as I can remember, been reading Peter Thomson on golf. My father had taken me to watch him at Metropolitan in the 1960s in an Australian PGA and he was not only the best player in the country but the best writer. He had a regular space in The Age where he would report not only on his play but his observations of the game and his rivals. When George Knudson won the Wills Masters at Victoria Golf Club in 1969 Thomson described the Canadian as the nearest thing we have seen to Ben Hogan. Knudson was a fantastic player but arguably the closest thing we have seen to Hogan in Australia is Thomson himself. The early seventies was a time when everything to do with American golf was great, or at least assumed to be, and everything British was old-fashioned and barely worthy of acknowledgment. The American stars, of which Jack Nicklaus was the best, had big, powerful swings with hands high at the top of the backswing, powerful leg drives and flashy reversed C finishes. Greg Norman, circa 1978, had it down perfectly as he imitated not only the great Nicklaus mannerisms but his swing fundamentals. The British players, the best of whom were Neil Coles and Christy O Connor, were deemed in contrast to the Americans to be too handsy . Their backswings were too flat , their swings not powerful enough because they barely used their legs whatever that silly phrase means. Not until the arrival of Tony Jacklin was it thought the British could hold their heads up in the modern game. Thomson was a supporter of the British game and by extension, the world game. He, and not Greg Norman, was the first proponent of a World Tour and the merits of playing the game professionally outside of America. He loved the British and Irish seaside links and mastered the playing of them. He saw the smaller British ball as something that differentiated the world game from the American one and asked, &aposwhy should we become an appendage of America? Many times, to my shame, I would read his columns and disregard his opinions as those of a man completely out of touch with the modern game and it wasn t hard to find others who thought him from a bygone era. He was against the paying of appearance fees, (no doubt it rankled when inferior foreign players were paid to play in Australia while he supported our events without fee) the introduction of the bigger ball into our game and the smoothing of bunkers with rakes. He admired players who worked the game out for themselves rather than seeking the advice of others. It would take no imagination to determine his attitude to the modern retinue of teachers, trainers, psychologists and managers. Here was a man who never asked of a caddy anything more than to turn up (sober), keep quiet and know the rules. The thought of today s caddies earning $100,000 for a week&aposs work must be beyond belief. Disappointingly Thomson didn t write a book. Someone once suggested he write one instructing others on how they should play but Thomson wondered if it would stretch to no more than half a dozen pages. Arguably his prolific newspaper columns as well as the endless number of Forewards he contributed to the books of others have left us with more than enough of an insight into what surely is one of the greatest minds ever to play the game. A few years ago publisher Geoff Slattery and journalist Steve Perkin prevailed on Thomson to contribute to a book that they would arrange and publish. Perkin (whose father Graham had been the Age editor who had encouraged Thomson to write) asked the questions and transcribed pretty much word for word the answers, while also accumulating the columns and other musings that Thomson had put down through his long journey. Add that to recorded observations, we have a book updated to include personalities and events that have taken place since the first edition of 2005 that is a must-read for any young players and veterans too hoping to discover the secrets to the cerebral side of the playing of the game. Like I used to, they may think much of it the ramblings of a champion player out of touch with today s game. I look back and wish I had paid more attention. Don t make the same mistake. Read this book and do not dismiss the views of one who may have had the whole thing in a better perspective than anyone before, or since. Publication Date: 1 October 2013 Author: Peter Thomson with Steve Perkin Pages: 176 RRP $22.95 Publisher The Slattery Media Group