Experimental learning

First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 4th January 2007

Having a baby is hard. It’s traumatic and emotional but hugely rewarding. What has Fergus learned from the whole experience?

I’m a dad. My wife Jessie was delivered of a baby girl on December 30. She’s called Flora and was a teeny 6lbs 6oz. It wasn’t the most straightforward birth; in fact it was a bit of a marathon. Watching the person nearest and dearest to me going through such a trauma was a very tough yet edifying experience. I could be of very little tangible use in hospital and, although my presence was important, it really was an individual performance. Very like golf in that respect. Ahh golf. Since Jessie went into labour some six days ago my mind has only rarely drifted to consider my chipping technique, I haven’t once re-thought my putting grip. Golf really isn’t of great consequence. 
Having said that, golf is still the second (now third actually) most important thing in my life so I’m going to consider some of the elements of the experience to see if I can apply them to golf.

1 – Witnessing Jessie going through such a stressful yet ultimately rewarding ordeal. Next time I start a game with three straight bogeys and am feeling the round must be the most stressful thing since the Cuban Missile Crisis I’ll cast my mind back to that labour ward. Yes, it’s hellish while you’re at the lowest ebb but the final result can still be magical. I’ll endeavour to think: “If I can just score a few birdies over the closing holes the score can still be excellent.”

2 – Supreme grittiness. If I could display even a modicum of the grit that Jessie did while in labour I’d be bound to salvage more poor rounds and battle on for more match play wins. The key thought is: never give up.

3 – Pain. The unbearable mental agony of missing a three-footer will never again feel quite so bad after seeing Jessie endure real physical pain for a considerable number of hours. The thing is though, physical pain can be treated much more easily than mental pain. I don’t think I could play golf with an epidural anyway.

4 – Relaxing. It’s important when in labour to relax between contractions in order to replenish a bit of energy. It’s not easy when you’re considering the pain of the last one and the imminent arrival of the next. I guess it’s just like trying to shut off your mind between shots – Retief Goosen style. I’m going to make it a mental priority to forget the last shot more quickly so I can get on with the next one more effectively.

5 – Taking expert advice. Doctors, midwives and nursery nurses really know what they’re talking about. Through the process it was crucial to trust them and do exactly what they said. I’m always extremely reluctant to take advice on golf, even from good pros whose opinions I respect. I’m aware they know better than me and, from now, I’m going to listen when they tell me I’m swinging too flat or my putter face is closed.

I’ve just noticed on the Golf Monthly website that Tiger Woods is soon going to be a dad too. There’s another thing we’ve got in common.

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