IT IS one of the most glamorous sports in the world, but most professional golfers live a lonely life on a meagre income spent in the midst of intense rivalries, according to research.
Travelling all over the globe, earning substantial amounts for four days’ work in stunning surroundings and being able to eat all the wonderful foods that the other sports stars should not make it among the most envied occupations.
But away from beautiful partners, mansions, private jets, fast cars and adulation enjoyed by golfers, such as Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, a survey of 20 players, including Ryder Cup stars and a former world number one, found the game is not all it is cracked up to be.
A particular concern is the rising number of foreign tournaments putting a strain on marriages.
Dr John Fry, of Myerscough College, Preston, told the British Sociological Association annual conference in Glasgow: “The perceptions many people have of the lives of professional sports people and their families is one of leading a life of luxury with very few cares; however the reality, it appears, is that in many ways this is not the case and many have particular stresses.
“The work presented here moves beyond the often glamourised celebrity media portrayals of professional sports people’s families to detail the reality of their lives. Not only are the golfers themselves often presented in a glorified, romanticised way, so too are their apparently ‘perfect’ family lives.
“More specifically professional golfers, who are out on tour, and their partners, who are back at home, experience intense feelings of isolation and loneliness given the time they spend apart.”
Dr Fry said: “The take-home message from this research is that it clearly takes a particular type of person to cope with the lifestyle of touring professional golf.”
He added: “The impact of the increasingly global nature of professional golf tournaments means players spend long periods of time away from home and many experience intense feelings of loneliness, isolation and perceptions of being cut off from the ‘real world’ during travel time and even at the tournament itself.”
A Challenge series player told Dr Fry: “I wouldn’t say I had many friends. I know a lot of them now and they are all good guys and you see them in the hotel at night and maybe have dinner with them and play practice rounds with them but I wouldn’t say they were my friends.”
This isolation was increased by lack of contact with their families.
One golfer, who had won six of the elite European tour events, told Dr Fry: “I don’t see my kids that much – they are too old to travel now, to be able to skip school. I miss my wife, my kids, my parents.
“I don’t see them enough, and that’s what is difficult.”
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