Without doubt, Augusta is one of the great sporting events. In recent years, Sky – who have likely paid a massive sum for the right to host it – have gone full throttle with wall-to-wall coverage from Monday.
The Drive, Chip and Putt challenge that takes place in the lead up to the tournament and is now readily available to watch, always makes me feel uncomfortable.
It is a parade of immensely talented kids aged seven to fifteen showing off their driving, chipping and putting skills.
From the intense stares to the tailored clothes, to the meaningful fist pumps, they are small but impressive imitations of the real professionals who will tee it off on Thursday.
What makes me feel uncomfortable? It is how these kids are being brought up.
Are we watching the next Tiger Woods? A man who dominated golf like no other and who knows might dominate again soon.
Or are we watching the next Tiger Woods? A child who was never given a chance to be anything else in life. With a father whose single-mindedness to make his kid the best golfer in the world, took any semblance of normality away from a young Woods – a decision we can reasonably assume led to some of the issues Woods has gone through in his recent life.
It is not just golf – I have always found the lack of sympathy towards troubled tennis stars like Bernard Tomic befuddling.
When you think about someone like Tomic, he won the under 12, 14 and 16’s of the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament, as well as two junior grand slam titles.
For such a prodigious talent from such a young age, was he ever given a chance to say he might not want to play tennis for a living?
In his first junior grand slam event in Australia, at the age of 14, his talent was already widely enough known that Australian greats like Pat Rafter came to watch him.
Tomic never had a childhood. From the age of 10 he had a career, not a hobby. It would be more shocking if that didn’t catch up with him.
Is it really that surprising that he admitted to being bored on court in Wimbledon last year? The guy never really had a chance.
Andre Agassi is a well-documented case of someone who hated the game they excelled at because of the immense pressure his father put on him.
Agassi kept it together on the court into his mid-thirties, but the fact he had to overcome a crystal meth addiction is a very harrowing reminder of how that pressure can affect people.
Very few of the golfers on show will make it back as professionals, but that shouldn’t be anywhere near the point for a seven-year-old swinging a golf club.
It is uncomfortable for me when looking at these kids that, for some of their parents and coaches, professionalism is the only thing on their minds.
Featured Photograph via Wikimedia