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Embrace travel- it’s an education!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Seve Ballesteros

Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to discuss the significance of constant travel to a top player’s career:

“I remember talking to the late, great Seve Ballesteros once and he pointed to an empty corner of the room before telling me, ‘I’ll sleep there if I have to. I’ll do whatever it takes’.

We were having a discussion about the incessant travelling that goes with being a pro golfer. It’s something that is rarely talked about, but whether you adapt to it or not can shape the destiny of your career.

Look at my fellow Englishman Neil Coles. He was recently described as the most famous golfer that Americans have never heard of.

I played in my first US Masters in 1967 because Colesy wouldn’t fly. He was fourth on the order of merit in Europe and I was fifth and took his spot.

His fear came as a result of a journey he took from Scotland to London. On the way back from a tournament at Gleneagles, fog meant the packed plane had to circle Heathrow Airport for more than an hour. When he got off he told his wife he’d never fly again and he never did.

Colesy’s example shows that incessant travelling is not for everybody but, for a golfer,  it’s a massive part of achieving your goals, being able to up sticks every week and still feel comfortable in your surroundings.

You’ve got to look at it as an adventure and I certainly consider myself blessed to have had so many wonderful travel experiences around the world.

I occasionally look at the World Weather Watch in my newspaper. I scan each of the 40 or so cities on the list and think to myself, ‘Been there, been there, been there too’.

People are great wherever you go. Back in my day you couldn’t necessarily afford to stay in hotels so sometimes you used to stay with members of golf clubs whether it was in Thailand, the Philippines, New Zealand, and those people become your friends for decades.

Today you wouldn’t be able to make a living if you couldn’t travel. My young golfing son Sean used to get anxiety attacks when he first started going on international flights. He’s over it now but that’s such a huge part of what we do, it’s something we almost have to take for granted.

You go through huge upheaval every week and it puts a lot of pressure on relationships, families. One week you’re in one continent, the next week in another, and you just have to cope.

When my first wife Vivien and I started on the golfing merry-go-round in 1966, we would go for months without being at home. It was a wonderful adventure for the first three years or so but when you start a family it becomes tricky.

Having two children then becomes more complicated than having just the one, they start going to school, and the globetrotting becomes rough on family life.

One of the great things in my era was that we always enjoyed dining out, wherever we went we knew the best places to eat.

Colesy and Brian Huggett used to travel quite a bit together and they found some delightful old bed and breakfast places they used to return to year after year, and made long-lasting friendships.

I generally used to go out eating in a group with Bernard Gallacher, Tommy Horton, Brian Barnes and Peter Townsend. We would be in town for a golfing mission but, of course, we were only at the course for four of five hours and the rest of the time we would go to a movie or a bullfight or simply socialise together at a fine restaurant.

It’s central to the job and something you have to be comfortable doing whether you’re in America, Japan, Spain, Venezuela or South Africa. You have to embrace the travel because there are so many spectacular, vibrant cities out there to explore.

I consider myself truly blessed to have gone through those experiences. I could read and write when I left school but I didn’t have a clue about algebra or things like that.

The lion’s share of my education was the travel I did as a young man. Meeting chairmen of major corporations, presidents of big companies, playing alongside kings and princes, and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity.”