We all know the story. You’re watching Jack Nicklaus finish runner-up at the 1971 Masters, and that inspired you to pick up the game?
Sir Nick Faldo: I was looking for a sport. That’s my line. I played everything at school. I did cycling out of school, I went for tennis lessons, and they said you’re too tall back then and, in that era, you’re meant to be Rod Laver size. There were these guys in fancy colours around these trees. I love trees, and I wanted an outdoor job and to be my boss. Those were my two rules, and so there was a new sport to try.
So, I went to my mum the next morning and said, “Today, I want to try golf.” They knew about Welwyn Garden City Golf Club, and so they took me, and I wandered into the pro-shop and booked my six lessons from the assistant pro, Chris Arnold. I said, “Right I’m ready”, and he said, “No, your first one is tomorrow”. So, what I learned from that now, especially with these kids, is that he installed discipline because the first lesson was the grip and the second was posture. The third lesson was alignment. I hadn’t hit a ball yet. Finally, on the fourth lesson, I hit a ball. Now, if anybody wants to learn, they hit a ball within 3 seconds. Show me that, give me a go. Unbeknownst to me, he installed that discipline of what it takes to build all of the fundamentals.
I started practising, and my next-door neighbour gave me a club, a 7-iron with plastic over the shaft. I rummaged through the bushes and found 20 golf balls. My mum was a dressmaker, so she made me a little practice bag, and that was it. I used to sneak over to the school near me and to hit balls down the line of the football pitches, and there was a long jump pit at the end. I used to hit these 7 or 8 irons into this long jump pit, and I would be cross if I missed it. I went back 10 years later, and that long jump pit was 12-foot-wide and 20-foot-long, and I’m annoyed I’m missing that from 100 yards. The bottom line is, I fell in love with golf very quickly.
I played my first round of golf on my 14th birthday, so I had practised for 3 months before I played my first round of golf. So, I had got past shanking, topping, missing and I could play. I think I shot in the low 80’s for my first round. I didn’t know the rules; I lost a ball what did that mean. I remember 3-putting the third and thinking that was stupid; I’ll never do that again. And so, I could at least play. By 15 I fell in love with it and, at 16, I left school. It was an amazing decision by my parents, considering where we had come from. To say fine let him leave school and head to the practice ground. My parents gave me that amazing trust and, as my mother said, she knew me. She knew I would head to the practise ground rain or shine or anything and beat golf balls. I started playing amateur tournaments and started winning them. 1975 was my big year when I won the English Amateur, British Youths and Berkshire Trophy. By the old handicap system, at the start of the year I was at 3, and by the end of the year, I was at +1. Only Sandy Lyle and I were plus in the whole country with the old system. I played for Great Britain by the end of the year, so that was my rapid start to golf.