Call it addiction or obsession but the desire of a professional golfer to remain on tour even when there are a million reasons not to be there goes beyond all logic.
Just ask Rebecca Codd (née Coakley), the Irish tour pro who’s been battling to make the grade on the Ladies European Tour for the best part of 11 years.
With a two-year-old daughter at home and her husband Shane away caddying for a Colombian on the LPGA Tour, it’s a hugely difficult balancing act for the 34-year old Carlow native, who sometimes takes little Kate out on the circuit.
But she admits it’s also a wrench to even contemplate leaving the camaraderie and the competitive battleground of the Ladies European Tour as it battles for its place in the sun in a modern sports landscape dominated by football and the big sister that is the LPGA Tour.
This week Codd was in Turkey for the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, which is running from Sunday to Wednesday in a one-off experiment by the Ladies European Tour (LET).
Given three hours of live coverage on Golf Channel on Monday and on Sky Sports yesterday and today as opposed the usual highlights package, they want to see if they fill the void left by the men’s tours early in the week.
Without live television, the LET has no chance of succeeding and Codd is convinced it has to work, even if she is miffed after seven three-putts meant she missed Monday’s cut by a shot after rounds of 75 and 77.
So what if the Sunday-Wednesday starts mean some of the US-based European stars can’t play the previous or following week’s LPGA event. “If we want this tour to grow, we can’t be worrying about people coming over from the US to play in a few events,” Codd says. “We have to do it with what we have got. The Ladies European Tour needs this exposure to grow the tour.”
It also needs characters like halfway leader Melissa Reid or the bubbly Scottish blonde Carly Booth, who lit up the cut party with her dance moves, or 51-year old English legend Laura Davies, who opened with an eight under 65 that proved she can still compete with the younger women.
As for Codd’s demise, it came down to one thing — putting.
“Putting was a struggle,” she sighed. “Pace putting. That’s the way it goes, unfortunately. It’s hard work. I’ve been on the LET for… this is my 10th season and I’ve been a member for 11 years. I do enjoy it… not so much today but I do love it.
“After I had my daughter Kate (now two) I thought I wouldn’t play on tour again but after three or four months, I felt I could tee it up again so I did.
“It takes a while to get back into the swing of it. The biggest mistake I made was taking pretty much a year off and getting back into competitive mode again was tough because you have fallen quite a bit behind.
“Diana Luna has two kids with her this week, one of them is two and a half months old. But the competitive thing never goes away. After having Kate, I took a totally different outlook on golf.
“You don’t want to miss cuts but before you got totally wrapped up in it all and you’d be absolutely livid. Now it is like — it is what it is, just get on with it. I’m a bit more chilled.”
Rebecca, now 34, is hugely grateful for sponsorship support from financial advisors SmartChoice.ie or a world leader such as Turkish Airlines, which has a big presence in Ireland and may soon be flying direct from Dublin to the golfing enclaves of Antalya.
Still, it’s a precarious existence in a business where you need at least €30,000 to meet expenses before you start.
In contrast to the stars of the PGA or LPGA Tours, the vast majority of LET players pay for their own gear, though they can get decent discounts of up to 30%.
“A lot of the top players are not getting paid to use equipment and only a few might be getting bonuses,” she explains. “Fifteen to 20 years ago they were paid to use equipment but not now, It seems crazy.”
Titleist/Footjoy look after Rebecca for balls, gloves and shoes, which is a huge help but while it’s tough to keep going, Rebecca admits the game holds its power over the players.
“It’s almost like gambling, there is always that next game, that next event, that’s what we all live for.”
Leaving little Kate at home is the toughest aspect of the game but like most struggling tour players, she admits she’s not being clinical enough on or around the greens.
“I am not converting enough,” she says. “And then on top of that making stupid mistakes... Well, not stupid, but when an ordinary shot goes to 40 feet on these massive greens, you have a lot of really tough putts.”
A total of seven three-putts over the first two rounds finally took its toll, missing the cut by the narrowest of margins.
“You end up grinding out pars and that’s not how you want to be playing,” she says.
The short game has always been a struggle.
“It was never my strength and I have worked and worked and worked but never pressed on. I have tried everything and different ways of practising. It’s the same story every week. Maybe it is something in my head.”
The presence of 39-year old Gwladys Nocera or 51-year-old Davies near the top of leaderboards tells Rebecca that age does not have to be an impediment to success.
Men excel from their late 20s but then they fade by 40. Women excel quite young and may be gone by their 30s. Occasionally, they appear to go on forever, like Davies.
Keeping going is not a problem for Codd but she needs motivation and it’s surprising to learn she’s heard nothing from Ireland’s Olympic Golf team leader Paul McGinley, possibly because at 673rd in the world, she’s well behind world No 104 Stephanie Meadow or No 141 Alison Walshe, who is expected to declare for Ireland.
“I’ve love to play in the Olympics but I had a good start to the season last year and didn’t seem to improve my world rankings,” she says. “It’s got me baffled.”
Playing for Ireland with Hazel Kavanagh in the World Cup of Golf in South Africa remains the highlight of Codd’s career.
She’s keen for more and despite her struggles, her enthusiasm remains unbowed.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved