Hoo-ha, The Ryder Cup, Gravity and Stress

Well, it’s nearly that time again. In just a few weeks the 2016 Ryder Cup will commence and, in the understated and hype-free run-up to the event, there’ll be all sorts of hoo-ha spoken and written about what it’ll take for one side to be victorious over the other. And in the aftermath there will be post mortems and reflection. Maybe even FIGJAM-like recriminations from those unaware of how things work.

And my little missive here is no exception – it’s my hoo-ha donation, for whatever it’s worth.

But before we get into the ponderings of what might happen I’d like to recount a conversation that I had a while back with somebody who knows about world golf.

The subject of the Ryder Cup came up and it was suggested to me that, whilst the foundations upon which my work is based will work in most circumstances (sic), they really aren’t applicable to the event that is The Ryder Cup.

It was suggested that I simply didn’t understand the pressures involved, the atmosphere, the expectation, the hopes and dreams, the loyalties, the sense of responsibility and the sheer intensity of the event. This was a Special Occasion and the normal laws of the universe do not apply to The Ryder Cup.

Of course being a master of my craft, choosing the perfect words and utterly sensitive to the needs of my beloved client I listened intently before responding with a gentle, considered and lovingly delivered:


The next poetic phases of the conversation went something like this:

“You’ve never been there, you don’t know what it’s like, the crowds, the atmosphere – the whole thing. If anyone is talking bollocks it’s you.”

“So, did what I say cause you discomfort? Was my summary a tad abrupt?”

“You’re bloody right. Your poncey stuff has its place but it doesn’t work everywhere with everybody all the time. You need to know that.”

“So, right now, I’m the source of your irritation?”

“Yes, you daft twat, you are.”

“But I can’t irritate you. I don’t have the power to irritate you. Nothing I say or do can have any direct effect on how you feel. You know that. It’s like me saying to you there’s a part of the Earth that you can stand on where gravity doesn’t work. You know all this. You’ve seen and experienced how it works.”

“I know, but it’s different. It just is.”

“It’s more stressful than bereavement? Divorce? A terminal diagnosis? Bankruptcy and ruin?”

“Let’s talk about something else, you twat.”


I love my job.

This comes up again and again and again and nobody is immune to the misunderstanding that generates these views.

When I was twelve I was learning to play the trombone (I know) in my Junior High School band and, in my world, there were only two things a trombone was good for:

1) delivering high volume saliva payloads over great distances

2) making ginormous flatulent noises from behind doors to the detriment of my father’s cardiac health.

But Don Timmerman, our band leader, loved trombones and so he’d find every opportunity to have the trombone section of the band leap from their chairs at the back and rush theatrically to the front to the face the audience so we could do those big glissando ‘pooooooooooowaaaaaaaaaahs’ that some trombones can do.

My trombone couldn’t do the glissando thing. My trombone could only do two things and, given that spraying the first three rows of the audience with warm spittle might have been met with disapproval, they were treated to the sound of a small boy producing brontosaurus farts in the key of F flat (I know) during a song played in the key of C.

Ryder Cup stress my arse.

Nothing, but nothing is as stressful as being a little lad pretending to be able to play the trombone in front of millions and millions of people when you can’t. Nothing is as stressful as being forced to go out and embarrass yourself night after night demonstrating that your only trombone talent is to produce a poor facsimile of the guff of a long extinct reptile while people laughed at you. It wasn’t funny. Honest, it wasn’t.

Some time later but still long ago I was told that if I didn’t stop doing certain things I would be dead in six months. Stressful? Yes.

When my beloved marriage disintegrated as a result of me doing the certain things that were going to kill me, was that stressful? Yes.

Where did the stress come from?

Did it come from those ‘things’? Did it come from Trombone Incompetence? Did it come from certain bad things or divorce?

No it didn’t.

It came from the Thinking I was doing about those things.

Those things, those circumstances, had no power except the power I gave them – handed over to them – through misunderstanding where my experience was coming from. And the fall out and consequences of those misunderstandings lasted for years and might still be present if it hadn’t been for the realization that I was making it all up. I was lucky and was taught how it worked.

Am I still twelve and farting the trombone? No.

Can I still feel the embarrassment of being a useless trombonerist? Yes, but only if I work very hard to imagine myself in that place again.

But am I really there? Am I twelve? No. I’m an adult making up a story that hasn’t ever existed before based upon a perceived memory of something that was based upon a misunderstanding! A pile of bollocks in fact.

I once asked a Ryder Cup player to close his eyes and recall the most stressful and frightening experience he could recall. As he did so the change in his posture and physiology were obvious and I asked him to point to exactly where in his body he felt the centre of this emotion.

He pointed to a spot below his sternum and above his belly button, “right there,” he said.

“Describe it to me,” I suggested.


“How do you know it’s horrible? How do you know it’s not happy? Hunger? How do you know?

We moved off topic for a bit then I asked him to close his eyes again and recall the most intensively exciting event he had ever experienced.

This time his bodily reaction was different and his posture changed and again I asked him to point to exactly where he felt the centre of this emotion.

He pointed to a position about two inches above his sternum and again I asked him to describe the sensation.

“Fabulous. Fantastic. I love it.”

“How do you know it’s good? How do you know it’s not horrible?”

“Because it feels different.”

“OK,” I say, “now where do feelings come from?”

“Uggh. From the thoughts I’m having.” He knew how it worked.

“Ok, so what happens if you take that horrible feeling in your gut and move it up above your sternum to where the excitement is?”

“Er, it seems like it’s the same. It feels the same as excitement.”

“Ok, so what happens when you take the excitement and move it down to just above your belly button?”

“Wow, same thing, it feels like anxiety, it feels like stress.”

“How can that be? How can that happen?”


Interesting huh. Whether you feel excited or anxious your body is in an excited state – the difference in how you choose to interpret it is based on the thinking that created the response in the first place. Excited thinking = excitement. Anxious thinking = excitement. The difference in perception is due to the thoughts that are the source for the emotion. Your body thinks it’s excited. End of. You’re making up the rest.

Do you think that may explain the Ian Poulter phenomenon?

How is it, that in the midst of all that anti-gravitational circumstance where the laws of physics are suspended and every other player seems weighed down by what’s going on ‘out there’, that Poults feels the excitement? Does he somehow know exactly what it is and is able to respond by releasing his talents and skills to their full potential because he’s excited and knows it?

Watching Ian Poulter on fire isn’t stressful – it’s exhilarating! It’s watching a guy get out of the way of his thinking and just emerge as a golfing butterfly. I wonder if he can pass his magic on to his counterparts.

And here’s the thing: every player on the European side and every player on the American side has everything they need to be able to do the same – except for a tiny little itty bitty misunderstanding.

They think gravity is suspended at the Ryder Cup.

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