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If seven million is the answer, what is the question?
The number of anti-Rory rage tweets posted by LIV bots in an average month? The cheque for finishing dead last in one of the PGA Tour’s elevated events? The times Patrick Reed has fallen foul of the rules of golf?
Wrong, wrong and (kind of) wrong. It is, instead, the number of followers Lewis Capaldi has amassed on Instagram.
The Scottish singer has built a huge audience since he burst onto the scene in 2019. His catchy tunes, cheeky chappie personality and boundless charisma have – excuse the pun – struck a chord with music fans across the UK and beyond.
At the time of writing, his songs have clocked up almost five billion streams on Spotify, whilst a Netflix documentary about him has charted inside the top-10 in a dozen different countries.
He’s kind of a big deal. And he absolutely loves golf.
Days before he performed on the main stage at Glastonbury this summer, the 26-year-old was spotted on the Old Course at St Andrews, the second such pop star to hit the famous links in as many months.
Harry Styles pegged it up ahead of his sell-out shows at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. Word of the 29-year-old’s tee time spread quickly through the town and, quicker than you can say ‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’, a huge crowd – comprised mostly of young girls – had descended on the course.
Styles, incidentally, has 49 million Instagram followers. His songs have been streamed more than nine billion times on Spotify, not including the two billion streams he accumulated as part of One Direction. Reminder: there are around 8.8 billion people on the planet.
For all the talk of “growing the game” through over-wrought initiatives and hollow-bodied campaigns that comprise a punchy hashtag and little else, it is people like Capaldi and Styles who are the key to supercharging golf’s popularity.
Styles’ former band-mate Niall Horan – another keen golfer – has already demonstrated that. When he tweeted in 2016 about his company Modest! Golf Management partnering with the Northern Ireland Open and the Challenge Tour, European golf’s second tier circuit began trending in Los Angeles and Mexico City almost immediately. Its chief executive Alain de Soultrait reportedly flew to Mexico the very next day to explore the possibility of staging an event out there.
Another consequence of Horan’s tweet was that the Challenge Tour’s Twitter account gained 1,000 new followers… overnight.
Directly or indirectly, these guys are taking golf to an audience the sport is desperate to reach. If Capaldi, Styles or Horan say something’s cool, there’s a legion of followers ready to agree with them, no questions asked.
That’s what the authorities need to capitalise upon.
Credit to the R&A, they’ve put an arm around Horan in particular, as well as former Wales and Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale, signing them up to be global ambassadors for the game. That’s a great start. But it’s only the start. If we fail to take advantage of this opportunity and explore it to the fullest extent, it will be a monumental whiff.
Imagine what other sports would do for this level of exposure. Just think of the envy golf and its key administrative figures would feel if Capaldi was generating this attention for cycling, or if Styles was playing a few sets of tennis at Eastbourne, or if Horan was a season ticket holder for a rugby league team.
Entirely too many people roll their eyes at this kind of participation. It will no doubt be the same during the BMW PGA Championship Celebrity Pro-Am at Wentworth tomorrow. Indifferent sighs from people who should know better will accompany the involvement of Bale, Anton Du Beke, Tom Holland and Stuart Broad.
But these people are point-missers.
Capaldi & Co. are a gift horse to a game that is crying out for wider exposure. Look it in the mouth at your peril.
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