Another letter from the DOC – April 2008

Let me tell you about a book that will forever challenge the way you look at life and possibly what goes on in the world – Freakonomics, written by Steve D. Levitt and his wing man Stephen J. Dubner. Steve Levitt is actually Dr Levitt with a degree from Harvard and a doctoral from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who spends his time lecturing and researching economics at the University of Chicago. Stephen Dubner normally writes for the New York Times and their paths crossed when Dubner was writing an article on the Psychology of money and was sent out to interview Dr Levitt. The one line introduction to what this book is about is ‘if moral is about how we would like the world to be, economics is about how it actually is’. Rather intriguing, wouldn’t you say? I don’t know how many times I have tried to make it through this book and it has taken me a good while to actually reach the end. Most of the time I have thought that there is a load of absolute nonsense in that book and I just do not want to buy that the explanation to just about everything would be personal financial gain either in money directly or in some other sort of benefits. As I was reading the book on a plane out of London I was seated next to three guys, all Aussies working in the financial district in London, and when one of them saw what I  was reading he said – ah, great book! You might guess that we had a pretty loaded discussion about what motives might drive people. And after watching a BBC documentary (Superrich: The Greed Game) the other night about the problems with high bonuses in the City linked to the performance of investments made with other people’s money I think maybe the current financial crisis shouldn’t be such a big surprise…

It is however interesting to think about what motivates, not just people but also organisations as well as companies and in sports perhaps clubs and why not counties. One thing that I have said many times fascinated me when I came to work in England was the time that the volunteers in the sport put in. And I can assure you that the motivating factor there is not money. It will no doubt cost you to be a volunteer in golf! And still as an organisation we would have no chance to survive without the work of the volunteers. In the US the March Madness has just peaked with the NCAA College Basketball final having about 70, 000 people in the crowd. That is not too bad for what is considered to be the ‘last true amateurs’ in sports. The crowd is of course going crazy and the American newspapers have been full of pages covering the basketball. You can actually still watch the game online (http://ncaasports.com/mmod). The college basketball final is even said to possibly be the biggest event of all sports in the States given its longevity (the whole of March) and the somewhat 65 schools it actually involves in the build up to the final. I know the schools can’t really be labelled ‘amateurs’ as there is certainly a lot of money involved for them, some of which will cover the cost of running programmes for other sports at the school, but there certainly isn’t any money in it for the players and not for the crowds. So there must be something more to it, perhaps the same something that still drives Tiger Woods to want to win tournaments and to still be the favourite at Augusta National this week. And the same intangible thing that makes Annika Sorenstam once again want to be the World number one in the women’s game. I think there is an inner drive in all of us and I bet you that your life will be so much more interesting if you try to find out what that is, rather than to abdicate under the rules of Freakonomics. At least that is what I want to think…

In the world of golf it has been an interesting month. Two English amateurs got the chance to test the water with the big guys on the European Tour and both came away with a bundle of experience as well as hopefully the feeling that perhaps they are not too far off the mark. Spanish Amateur Champion Dan Willett played in the Andalucian Open and finished in a tie for 19th, while English Junior Champion Matt Haines played all four rounds in the Estoril Open de Portugal to finish 60th. In the same event I was incredibly pleased to see David Howell back in the top of the leaderboard after having been through a tough time. This time David narrowly lost in a play-off, the same thing that happened to Oliver Fisher the week before in the Andalucian event where another strong finish was recorded by Robert Dinwiddie thanks to a fabulous last day. There are a lot of St George’s cross flags in events around the world… Let us hope that continues this week at Augusta and next week in the Australian Amateur!

Wishing you lots of birdies,
 

Peter

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

– William Faulkner

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