Stab Magazine | Golf Geeks
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Golf Geeks

With its old-man stylin and pedantic rules. Is golf the equivalent of lawn bowls for pro surfing’s elite? Story by Sam McIntoshPhotos by Scott Solens The palatial gates of the Pacific Golf and Country Club in San Clemente swing open. Out behind the 405 super freeway, green slopes run into lakes and manicured shrubbery and trees. […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by Sam Mcintosh
Reading Time: 7 minutes

With its old-man stylin and pedantic rules.
Is golf the equivalent of lawn bowls for pro surfing’s elite?

Story by Sam McIntosh
Photos by Scott Solens

The palatial gates of the Pacific Golf and Country Club in San Clemente swing open. Out behind the 405 super freeway, green slopes run into lakes and manicured shrubbery and trees. Porsche Cayennes and Caddy Escalades fi ll the carpark. Entry into the clubhouse member’s area is forbidden if denim is strapped to your hams. Rules abound.
A pocket full of green ain’t gonna get you on the course today, we’re told. Membership-only. Thankfully, we’re running on Pat O’Connell’s coat tails. When we order 11 Coronas to lube the geeks shoot, our money is refused. “Sorry, no cash, only payable onto an account,” says the bartender. “You’re
here on Pat O’Connell’s membership? I’ll add it to his account, sir…”
Uh, um, oh, yeah, okay, sweeeeeet!

So, how have we ended up here, fi ve miles from the beach to cover this game? We’re here to uncover the attraction and the lure of golf. The best surfers in the world are addicted to the game. Kelly spends way more time on the fairways than he does in the water. And it’s not just the old boys. Bruce Irons, Tim Curran, Tom Whitaker, Jarrad Howse – the entire posse love the game.

Occasional Stab Style editor Nathan Webster has come along for the ride too. He was quick to toss the title The Golf Geeks on surfing’s golf enthusiasts three years ago in France when the boys were spending way too much time on the course. Since then, golf has become insanely popular on the tour. Nathan has joined us for the specific purpose of poking fun at “their shockingly evil golfing
ensembles.”
Of course, if the Geeks have just one shred of wit or knowledge of pop culture between em they will easily slaughter Webster for his sychophantic and crude imitation of Brit crack addict/musician/Kate Moss accessory Pete Doherty. Who will the battle of wits? Read on…

Tuck Me in Mama

Tom Whitaker is the first to arrive. He wears camel checked pants and a flamingo polo – the epitome of golf chic. He actually rocked the same pants to the Surfer Poll awards a few nights earlier, but with little sartorial success. Tommy is quick to explain that he loves the rules and regulations of the golf course and the fact there are some clubs with male-only areas. When he sees someone get shown the door because they were wearing jeans and they curse how about much they hate these kinda places, Thomas says: “That’s why I like em. I like some places that have rules and regulations. Go to a skate park, go to the beach if you don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, we’re known to throw a club or ridicule each other, don’t you worry about that, but it feels good to tuck the shirt in.”

Richie’s Ace

Richie Lovett, a man who’s survived a tsunami, a horrible scratching on the reef at Chopes and a dreadful cancer of the stilt is, ironically, the only man in the surf crowd to have nailed a hole in one.
Despite Rich’s ace, Kelly is the alpha male of the group. According to Tom, he’s “proper good” and he roams the green with confi dence. He juggles the ball on a pitching wedge between his legs between photos and leads opinion on the game. Kelly fondly remembers the day Rich scored his hole in one in France.
“We were all talking about a hole in one and the green’s set up for a hole in one, and we all put it within eight or 10 feet of a hole. Then Richie just dropped it in. It was amazing.”
Everyone remembers how they chaired Rich to the clubhouse on their shoulders. Nathan Webster believes there was more commotion surrounding Rich’s hole in one than in the aftermath of his only WCT win, at Trestles three years ago.
“You couldn’t talk to anyone without hearing about the fucken shot,” says
Nudes.
“Yep, and it’ll be the only hole-in-one that club’ll ever see,” says Kelly to
laughter.
Along with Tom, Kelly and Richie, the Golf Geek pack is rounded out by WCT rookie Jarrad Howse and former Pipe Master Jake Paterson. It’s now that you can tell how serious the pack are about the game. The odds and stats about aces are quickly pointed out and everyone holds a similar gravitus toward eagles and albatrosses and other golfi ng milestones. Every time you step onto a par three hole, the odds of you getting a hole in one are 33,000 to one. A hole in one or an eagle (two shots below par) is the equivalent of scoring Surfer magazine’s tube of the year award, according to Tommy. Kelly compares his two waves at Teahupoo against Bruce Irons at the Billabong Pro last year as eagle waves. Remember the tube where Kelly fell backwards and somehow righted himself to ride to 10 points? “I would equate those as being the same, they’re the kind of events where can’t control your emotions,” he says. Kelly likens a birdie (one under par) to a good day at Pipe. “You might get two or three good barrels in a day, just the same as round you might get two or three birdies in a round.”
A par for Kelly equals a better than average wave, maybe a couple hacks, maybe an air. When Jake Paterson takes the stage to explain what a lacklustre bogey (one over par) is for him, Kelly interjects condescendingly: “Oh for him, it’s like a big barrel at Backdoor!”
Jake is quick to retort: “Beat it, fuckwit. I’m pretty sure I beat you in the semis once at Pipe. Dickhead.”
Kelly: “Oh I remember, I needed a three to progress!” And as our crowd erupts, Kelly comes in for the knock-out blow: “And, I’m pretty sure that result’s not up on my wall.”
After being torn to shreds, Snake begins to explain that for him an eagle would be like a big Taj-styled air reverse. Then, like a hawk on a wounded marsupial, Nudes swoops. “You’d never done an air in your life!” he hoots.

More Addictive Than Meth

The unpredictability and frustrating nature of the game attracts Tom. “Like, you could fluke a perfect game at 10 pin bowling,” says Tom. “But not Kelly, not Tiger, is ever going to play a perfect game. It’s too intriguing.”
“There’s more luck involved in golf than in surfing,” says Kelly. “After 30 years of surfing, I’m so much more tuned in to my surfing. A golf swing takes one second, surfing a complete wave can take 20 or 30 seconds. There’s a lot more going on
with surfing but I can control that. They’re two of the most challenging sports in the world. It’s a constant challenge. The challenge of repeating one swing, your short game, your driving, it’s a challenge that never stops. I’ve only ever had a few shots in my life that went how I wanted em. I holed out in Japan at about 160 yards, I’ve hold out a couple times from 100 yards.”
Rich believes surfing is similar for two reasons. The first is that you don’t rely on anyone else for your performance and the fact that no two styles of golf or surfing are ever the same. “There are some real horror swings out there and you see some guys who swing a club really well and have a nice style and it’s pretty to watch. Like surfing, you see some styles and go, my god, what’s this guy doing?” Rich reckons Occy is the perfect example. “Occy’s renowned for having one of the best style’s ever in surfi ng but he’s got a horrid, unorthodox style to swinging a club.”

Golf as a Reflection of Personality

Rich describes the game as a complete head-fuck. “It’s a way to control your mind and deal with frustration. It’s a game that can tie you in knots. It reflects in your everyday life. You play with some guys who start swearing, throw their clubs, they’re the kinda guys who are out at night on the piss and want to start fighting. You can see the dummy spitters a mile away. You can see the type of people who want to get good at this game because they don’t lose it, they want to get better, they think about it, they’re the kinda people who are addicted to it because they want to improve. To get better you have to become really analytical about it.”
And that’s why many believe Kelly’s so good, playing off a handicap of just two. He’s so impressive that he’s hoping to join the senior golf tour when he’s 50. “I’m thinking I could retire from surfing if I played all day every day. I could probably get my game close to the guys on tour. In 15 years I should be ready,” he says. “You can make a ton of money, you’re golfing every year and you can making
$10 million, it’s crazy. And the best thing is, you can say you golf for money.
Who’s gonna say you’re a sellout because you golf for money!”

Does a Passion for Golf Refl ect a Lack of Flamboyance in the Water? It’ is a question that has to be asked. Is it a sport you take up when your surfing
gets a little on the nose? Almost everyone answered that Kelly is living proof there was no lack of flamboyance.

I don’t want to ask him cause, like, he’s still crazy fl amboyant but I drop the question out mid-interview. His green eyes hunt my pupils and stare me down. Out of the corner of my own eyes, I can see Nathan Webster ecstatic that I’m in a such a corner. Kelly’s answer is swift and sharp: “You could probably shut that up real quick. Bruce Irons loves golf, and he’s gotten good in a really short amount of time.” Touche.

As the beers flow and talk of butchered shots and classic sessions in France abound, Tommy points out that the best thing about the game is hanging out with the boys and shooting the breeze. “You’re never going to play a round of golf on your own,” says Snake, for the same reason most of us like slaying with friends.
“And besides, there’s no one to there to see your best shots. If you got a hole in one and there was no one there to see it, you’d neck yourself.”
What if you took a filmer on the course just like a little solo session? “Wait till my next video part,” says Kelly. “Half’s gonna be my best waves, the
other half will be my best shots from a year of golfing.”
And with that, Pat’s free beers are finished, hands shaken and the sun melts
into the Hollywood hills.

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