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Golf is this all-rounder’s passion - Interview with Darren Gough

The spearhead of England’s bowling attack through much of the 1990s, Darren Gough’s glittering career saw him become the first Englishman to take 200 wickets in one day internationals (the final tally being 234) and he took 229 wickets in 59 Test appearances. The former Yorkshire captain has enjoyed success off the cricket pitch, too. In 2005 he stepped out in lycra and sequins as he strutted his stuff on Strictly Come Dancing with partner Lilia Kopylova. They waltzed off with the winning trophy. Caroline Nicoll caught up with talkSPORT’S Goughie

How did you get into golf?
From being around 14 to 18 years old I had a trusty 7 iron and I’d take it to play on the local school playing ground. I’d putt with it, chip with it and I’d tee off with it – and that’s all I played with until the head eventually fell off. That forced me to buy my first set of clubs when I was 19.

Who taught you to play golf?
I taught myself to play, but the international cricket umpire Peter Hartley really got me into the game. I’d be travelling all over with him on cricket tours and whenever there was the opportunity he’d say “Come on, let’s go play a round of golf”.

What is your current handicap?
It’s 13 and that’s the best it’s been. I’m desperate to get it lower, but I’m on the radio everyday from 4pm to 7pm with talkSPORT, so I have to try and fit the golf in. I play Pro Am and charity club days whenever I can. My handicap is getting better though. Just a few years ago it was 18, so I am improving.

Where do you play?
My local is the Three Locks Golf Club near Milton Keynes. It has a variety of holes and excellent facilities. I’m also a member of The De Vere Club, allowing access to 11 golf clubs and 16 courses all over the UK.

What are your golfing ambitions?
I’d like to get down to 5. I know I’ve got the potential to get there. I truly feel I can do anything with a golf ball, although the most difficult thing for me is chipping. I really need to improve that aspect of my game.

What rule of golf would you change if you were in charge of the game for a day?
I would make the fairways wider [laughs]. Actually, on a more serious note I do know what I’d change: I’d put a stop to the snobbishness of some golf clubs. I can’t stand it! There are a lot of golf clubs out there losing members because of it as there are a lot of would-be members bothering to join certain clubs. Some of them seriously need to relax their rules. It’s one of those things that really winds me up.

Favourite golfing destination?
I love the golf in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Emirates Golf Club and The Montgomerie, I seem to play my best golf out there. The courses are so well manicured, the ball sits up nicely and the greens are fabulous. The Abu Dhabi Golf Club is something special and so too is Saadiyat Beach – they’re just stunning courses. Closer to home I enjoy playing traditional English clubs. Wentworth and Sunningdale are fantastic, plus I love Woburn, which is only six miles from home.

Tell me about your charity golf day.
This year is the second Darren Gough Celebrity Golf Day and it will be on November 9 at Wentworth. It’s for the Alex Bolt Foundation. Alex’s parents first contacted me by letter to say that their son was a big fan of cricket and he’d followed my career. Alex had a brain tumour and I went to visit him. He was having chemotherapy at the time, and I was fortunate to get to know him and discover what a great kid he was. Tragically, at just 16 years old, Alex passed away. I’m still in touch with Alex’s family and we have an arrangement whereby I fix the golf part of the day and in the evening there’s a dinner that is arranged by Alex’s mum. It’s a great event and last year we had lots of big names – athlete Iwan Thomas, strictly dancers Anton Du Beke and Brendan Cole played, Freddie Flintoff turned up in the evening and Teddy Sheringham also came along. Last year tickets sold out in five days, we raised £70,000. Hopefully it will be another great success this year.

Do you follow the pro game?
I watch it on TV and I go along to tournaments whenever I can. In May, I went to the Scottish Ladies Open and it was brilliant. That really got me interested in following the ladies tour. You can learn so much watching the ladies, too. A fixation with power is the problem for many amateurs – me included – and so any time you are reminded of the quality of swing and rhythm it helps. Women rely on technique, while the men just try to power it. Having said that, I’m really looking forward to going to watch the Open at Lytham. I can’t wait!

Favourite professional golfer?
Tiger Woods. For his ability as a golfer, the way he’s changed golf and everything he’s done for golf as a sport.

Who’s your tip for Open?
A Brit! I’m so hoping that Lee Westwood or Ian Poulter get their hands on their first major, they deserve it.

What’s your favourite pro tournament?
It’s got to be The Masters, for the history of the event the style with which it is staged, and the stunning golf course. Even if you don’t usually follow the game, when the Masters comes around you can happily sit and watch golf with the family.

A dream fourball...who would you invite?
Phil Mickelson, I really admire him. From what I gather he’s a true gentleman both on and off the course. [People often say that I look like him? I think we need to get together to prove that I look nothing like him!] I’d also choose Freddie [Flintoff]. He’d be rubbish at golf and so would make me look good [laughs]. Freddie’s great value, always fun to be around, and he’d show his real class at the 19th! I’d have David Beckham in my dream fourball as well. I’ve never had the chance to meet him and I’d love to. He’s an amazing ambassador for both British and World sport.

Which cricketers are also great golfers?
Michael Vaughan loves his golf and plays off around nine. Phil Collingwood’s also very good, he’s about four, and there are some great Australians who play excellent golf, including Greg Moller and Ricky Ponting.

As well as cricket and golf, what other sports do you love to play or follow?
I still love football. I went to the World Cup in South Africa and I was at the Euros. I don’t play regularly anymore but I get involved in the odd charity match when asked. I still support Barnsley and I always will. I think it’s important to be behind the team where you’re from. Whenever I can I also love to sit and watch the darts.

What's been the best piece of equipment or technology that has helped your game?
I love the modern driver. To me the driver is the most important piece in the bag. I can remember looking down at the small woods on the end of the shaft when I first started and thinking I’ll never hit the ball with that, but now the oversize drivers give you a lot more confidence. It’s probably a psychological thing but looking down at a bigger driver just makes me think yes, no problem!

Your best golfing memory?
A hole-in-one on a par par at Wike Ridge, Leeds Golf Centre. It was on the first hole. That was a very special moment. It was in 2007, my first year back playing cricket for Yorkshire [for the second time]. I’ve not had a hole-in-one since, but I’ve been close a few times though.

Where’s your favourite ‘19th hole’?
I’m a big fan of all 19th holes! I’m always gagging for a drink after a round of golf. The Grove Hotel is a special place, their 19th is next to the putting green and when the sun’s shining it’s a beautiful spot to be. The Jigger Inn at St Andrews is wonderful as well. I love the history of the place and seeing the play ers coming in fully kitted out in their golf gear, a really special atmosphere.

Did your training on Strictly help with your moves on the golf course?
No, not at all. It just made me look better in my golf trousers [laughs].

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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