Based on my experiences of meeting new people, it seems the majority of folk think that being a golf journalist is somehow glamorous.
When they ask what you do, their eyes invariably widen as you explain that you write about one of the world’s greatest sports for a living. “Oh really?” they ask, leaning in and presumably delighted that you’re Not Another Bloody Accountant™'.
Look, it's a great job. I'd be disingenuous to suggest otherwise. But there have been a handful of incidents that I’d sooner forget. Since there’s precious little chance of that ever happening, I’ve decided to share some of my more embarrassing moments from the last 16-and-a-half years with you.
I joined bunkered in spring 2004, shortly before Thomas Levet won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. I attended the event in a ‘watch and learn’ capacity. By the following year, I was there to work. I was tasked with asking as many tour pros as possible a series of hopelessly mundane questions. The type of things that fill the corner of a page. Page furniture.
I was there on the Tuesday, the Wednesday and the Thursday. Tuesday was a practice day, Wednesday was the pro-am and Thursday was round one. Nowadays, we wouldn’t try to do this sort of content-gathering once the tournament has begun but, back then, things were a bit different. The idea was that I would stop players at the end of their rounds and get what I needed then.
DRESS CODES, TRUMP'S 2ND COURSE & BAD HABITS! PLUS, A BLETHER WITH MARTIN LAIRD!
I had a notepad full of questions and a list of targets. One of those was the Danish golfer Anders Hansen. Shortly after arriving at the course on the Thursday morning, I checked the scoreboard and noticed that he was coming up the 18th.
I walked to the hole in time to see him hit his approach. After he holed-out, I hot-footed it to the scorer’s hut where I figured I could stop him for a brief chat about what he would do if he wasn't a golfer and the first album he ever bought. As I arrived, he was striding purposefully towards me with his head down. I figured he must have played poorly. It was your classic "just bogeyed the last" stomp.
Nervously, I approached him. “Excuse me, Anders?” I ventured. “Michael McEwan from bunkered magazine. Could I have a couple of minutes of your time please?” He stopped in his tracks, frowned and looked at me like I'd just sworn at him in his native tongue.
“But I’m still playing!” he said, utterly incredulous.
Right at that moment, the horrible realisation dawned on me.
He must have started on the tenth.
He still had nine holes of his round to play.
He hadn't bogeyed the last. He was walking to the first. Or, in his case, the tenth.
Feeling my cheeks burn with remarkable immediacy, I panicked and blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Yeah,” I said, “but it’ll only take a couple of minutes!” As I said it, I knew it was one of the most stupid things anybody had ever said to a fellow human on a golf course.
His eyes widened.
“But I told you I’m still f**king playing!” he barked before marching away with a perfectly understandable shake of his head.
To this day, I’ve not been able to summon the courage to approach Hansen again. The shame is too much.
There have been other embarrassing incidents, of course. Inexplicably, I introduced myself to the former press officer for the Open Championship, the eminent Stewart McDougall, as my colleague Bryce Ritchie. “No you’re not,” replied Stewart, pointing across the room. “That’s Bryce over there.” To this day, I can't explain that one. Mortifying, I also asked Catriona Matthew for a word about her ‘Ryder’ Cup captaincy a few years ago.
All of which is to say nothing of the time I arrived early for an interview with the then PGA Cup captain Gary Alliss at Cameron House. Seven days early, that is. After walking into the lobby of the hotel where he was staying, I gave him a buzz to let him know I’d arrived and that I would just meet him in bar when he was ready. The uncomfortable pause quickened my pulse. “Er, aren’t we meeting next week?” he asked, sounding justifiably confused. He was right and I spent much of the hour's drive back home swearing at myself.
I could also tell you about the time I scored six points – six – on my Scottish Golf Writers’ Championship debut at Dundonald Links… but that’s another story for another day.