I reckon I was around 10 when I became completely besotted with the great Aussie fast bowler, Graham McKenzie. He was the spearhead of the Australian fast bowling attack and was pretty well everything I wanted to be. Tall, athletic, handsome, with a bowling action that was nothing short of magnificent. I copied his every move, from the bowling action, the way he had his right shoulder slightly behind him as he ran in, even the way flicked back his hair as he confidently strode back to his mark like he was John Wayne striding out to a gun fight with another luckless Pommie opening batsman.
It seemed I had mastered the whole Garth (McKenzie’s nickname) package one afternoon while training in the nets at school. Just as I was about to launch into another “beautiful to watch” run up I spotted a small group of year five girls watching me from the tuck shop and let me tell you, Kerrie Moon, who was second from the left, was making no attempt to hide her lustful smile.
Unfortunately, the pressure of the moment was too much plus it was early in my test cricket career and there was still a couple of facets of McKenzie’s action I was yet to master … speed and direction. The ball floated out of my hand like a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and the only thing preventing it from missing the pitch all together was the kid’s bat which sent it back over my head and in the general direction of the tuck shop…
After some deep and surprisingly mature soul searching I decided I might have overestimated my raw natural ability to rout the English top order. I chose instead to try something far more achievable and win an Australian Open Golf Championship.
I needed a new Aussie hero to model myself on and maybe regain Kerrie Moon’s shameless desire. I’m not sure why he needed to be an Aussie as at the time a bloke called Jack Nicklaus was doing a bit of damage but for some reason he had to be the Graham McKenzie of golf. I didn’t have to ponder for long when Dad finally got sick of using his 2 iron to putt with after I’d borrowed his putter and forgotten to put it back in his bag. One Saturday night he came home and reluctantly handed me a second hand mallet stamped “Bob Stanton Spalding”. Not only did the Aussie superstar cover all of my stringent qualifications but I was using his putter! From that day on I was “Bob Stanton Spalding”.
I think it’s pretty obvious I was a strange kid, and now an even weirder adult, but I know there are youngsters all across Australia who still place their sporting idols up on their respective sporting pedestals. From my observation, Aussie golfing kids currently love Jason Day. And why not? A major champion, world number 1 and the epitome of the modern, powerful, where’s the flag hand me a club, player. It also helps he’s a good bloke.
And the girls have a bloody ripper as well in Minjee Lee! The world number 2 ticks all the boxes to be adopted by youngsters as their idol and it would appear Minjee is well and truly here to stay.
This all made me wonder where the reborn Tiger Woods fits into the current children’s idol list. For those of us who love the game and are still attempting to make a living out of it he’s been nothing short of a Messiah! His comeback victory last year at The Tour Championship put him and golf right back on the front page of every sports media outlet and now his 15th major victory at The Masters means we could well be witnessing one of the most significant moments in sporting history.
There is no doubt Tiger is adored by the galleries from all over the world and a major with him in the mix on Sunday is an absolute must watch for fans of any sport. Up until now, I guess all “Tige” has had to offer the current crop of littluns was heroic back and knee surgery and the “aaah … now which was my motel room again?” affair has left some scars.
A few years ago this little bloke walked into the Pro-shop with his parents and I blurted out “G’Day Tiger!” After Mum gave me the same look Elin Woods did to Tiger just before belting him with an 8 iron, I realized I’d better come up with a new line. Is it OK to give it another crack now?
Perhaps there’s a new set of kids who will now take to the game on the back of Tigers recent comeback and in a couple of years’ time they will be wielding a Mallet Headed “Tigers Woods Nike” around the lounge room?
I would love some feedback readers!