A Myerscough College researcher has unveiled a study detailing the ‘lonely, isolated life’ of a professional golfer.
Dr John Fry, Myerscough College’s Research Lead for Sport, interviewed twenty professionals, including Ryder Cup players and a former world number one, to reveal the particular stresses behind the glamour of the game. His findings show that many professional golfers live a lonely existence in the midst of intense rivalries and on a meagre income.
Dr Fry says: “The impact of the increasingly global nature of professional golf tournaments means that 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.
‘’Players form superficial friendships to help ease the boredom and loneliness from being away from their families, but avoid confiding in other players at all costs. Emotional support was something of a closed shop and the general consensus was if players were struggling on or off the course then generally their colleagues would be happy they were having a hard time.
“The result is that players tended to keep their personal problems to themselves, particularly within the golfing fraternity, in order not to give others an advantage and to also guard against being viewed as a moaner. Such attitudes can also serve to increase and reinforce the perceived levels of loneliness that particular players may harbour.”
Lack of contact with family was also revealed as a big issue with the modern golfer, as was financial struggles. While EPGA top-level golfers who played well enough could make a good living, for those in the lower level Challenge and EuroPro tours it was difficult to break even. To earn £60,000 at the Challenge tour, with tax and touring £30,000 expenses to pay, a player needed to finish in the top 20 of the rankings list, out of around 400 players – most earned much less and many lost money.
Dr Fry said: “The significance is that the perceptions many people have of the lives of professional sportspeople 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 glamorised celebrity media portrayals of professional sportspeople’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.
“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.’’
Dr Fry was presenting his findings at the annual British Sociological Conference.
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by Dave Salmon