Following his retirement from football earlier this month, as a few speculated, it appears that Gareth Bale will now spend his time playing golf, as he intimated via his Twitter account at the time.
However, it appears that he is a lot better than most may first have suspected. So much so that it seems that he will join the PGA Tour at Pebble Beach as one of 156 other amateurs who are going to compete in the tournament.
It is not too uncommon for football players to turn to golf when they retire, though more as a hobby, that still gives them exercise and that competitive satisfaction. That doesn’t mean they perhaps cannot compete at the highest level if given the chance, though there are many sports men and women who are natural athletes and have skills that can transfer between multiple sports.
He will feature alongside current US Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick and world number five Patrick Cantlay, so he will still be in good company.
Bale And His Golfing History
Such is his passion for golf, that the 33-year-old recently posed while away on international duty with a banner that read ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order’ – something that sparked aggrievement with Los Blancos fans.
However, these are not just words. Few can say that they have a golf course as part of their garden – something that the Welshman can and obviously, when he wasn’t playing football, Bale was on the fairway, likely more often than other footballers who play sporadically.
His course features three of the world’s most iconic Par 3 holes; a sign of how deep his passion for the sport goes. During the recent World Cup, a round of golf was suggested as a possibility, with Wales boss Rob Page eventually deciding against it: “We had a round of golf planned,” explained Page. “I went to the Doha club – it’s run by a British lad. He said, ‘I’ll book you a time.’ But it gets dark at four o’clock. We looked at it, but there are other functions we might have to do, so we will probably not get the chance to do it. Yeah [I’ve told Bale]. There’s no golf. We’re out there to do a job.”
Most people perhaps don’t realise how deep Bale’s passion for the sport goes. Indeed, this came to the fore recently as he explained: “I love golf. You can play with and against anybody, off different handicaps or playing levels. You can just get out on the course with your friends and get away from everything. I have the bug and every time I tee it up, I want to improve.
“Golf is a hobby like anyone else would have a hobby. There is nothing wrong with having a round. People make a lot of it, but a lot of footballers play and it’s one thing I really enjoy. It keeps me calmer off the pitch and gives me time away from football which is nice.”
There have been question marks raised over his performances on the football pitch in recent years, with many commenting he was not the player he once was; perhaps suggesting that his heart may have already been on the golf course.
To say that he wasted no time in signalling his intentions so soon after his retirement from football, may indicate that he has been thinking about this for a long time; people don’t usually make such a spontaneous decision of this magnitude.
Indeed, there may be other clues to explain his dedication to the sport, as highlighted by his house hunt in Wales: “ I always wanted to buy a house in Cardiff. I always wanted land and always wanted to build a golf course on it,” he said.
“I’ve got three par-3 replicas of my favourite holes – the 17th at Sawgrass, the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, and the 12th at Augusta. The green is slightly smaller than the one at Sawgrass, which makes it even harder! When I actually played at Sawgrass, their green felt massive!
He continued: “I love watching golf. Watching the PGA Tour until late at night is my guilty pleasure. What I am inspired by the most is how the top players can perform under such huge pressure, especially in a sport where the margin for error and the difference between a good shot and a bad shot is so small.
“You want to hit it like the pros – or as close as you possibly can. It’s all about working on the right things. Whenever I have 20 or 30 minutes to spare, I’ll pop down the range or even swing, without a ball, in the mirror at my house to work on little things to ensure I’ve got the club in the right place. All those things add up.”
How Could He Perform?
Based on this, there is a lot to suggest that his competition has a lot to fear, something that professional golfer John Rahm alluded to, after playing nine-holes alongside Bale recently at Torrey Pines.
“I told Gareth, you can’t be so good at professional football and golf at the same time, it just doesn’t seem fair,” Rahm commented after. “You can’t be dedicated to one thing and have this much talent for golf, it’s not fair in the slightest.
“You can tell he loves this sport, he loves golf and he really wants to get to play a little bit more, so hopefully in the future I’ll see him more times in the pro-am.”
Although Bale had lots of time out on the course with Rahm, he did not ask the Spaniard for any advice on his game.
“He didn’t ask for anything, nor should he be asking, he’s already good enough,” Rahm continued.
“Like I said, he has no business being that good when he’s a professional football player. The second he’s done and he can actually practice more, he’s going to get a lot better.”
“He got two strokes, which I think it’s already wrong. He should be giving strokes back to the rest of the amateurs because he is a very, very good player.”
Obviously the evidence will be based on his first appearance, though if Rahm’s comments are anything to go on, he could become the next big hope for Welsh golf, just as he was for football when he burst onto the scene well over a decade ago.
Outside Chance For The Ryder Cup?
Just imagine. What a story that would be. While it is unlikely, nothing is impossible. Of course, it will depend on how performs on the PGA Tour and how many points he picks up to then qualify for major tournaments such as the US Masters – perhaps this may come too early for him, though the US Open later in the year, may be a genuine possibility.
As such, this could well sky-rocket him into the thoughts of the European team captain, Luke Donald.
One thing that he certainly has going for him is the number of transferable traits that can be applied in golf and carried over from football. A natural athlete, fitness should not be an issue, while his six foot plus frame, certainly suits the sport, while there is every suggestion that he could be a big-hitter off the tee as well.
Should he do enough to qualify for a major tournament this year and perform adequately, Donald may have a secret weapon in Bale.
Having won five Champions League trophies with Real Madrid, plus countless other cups, it could be this experience as a serial winner and being part of a team that could really rub off on other participants. Especially up against a strong US team, which has had trouble with team spirit and cohesion in the past, regardless of the talent of individuals.
Regardless of how fast he progresses over the next few months, the very fact that he has been selected to play in the PGA Pro-Am at Pebble Beach is a stunning achievement. He may just get the rub of the green.