Striking a blow for the ciotog

In Focus Left-handed golfers: Joe Culley notes how centuries-old conspiracy by the right has failed to stymie him and his fellow…

In Focus Left-handed golfers: Joe Culley notes how centuries-old conspiracy by the right has failed to stymie him and his fellow left-handers

"Who is the best left-hand player you ever saw?" said Mr Bliss, himself a left-hander and playing the game of his life.

"Never saw one worth a damn," Harry Vardon replied.

Captain's Prize. First tee-box. "Best of luck, enjoy the day." Gather your thoughts. Lean over, place the ball on the tee. Stand, breathe deep, focus. Step behind the ball to study the line. Fix your grip and prepare to take a practice swing, turn and - Bam! - you nearly take the head off the feckin' eejit of a playing partner who's just decided he's on the wrong side of you and of course chooses this moment to cross behind. Sure, he's only being polite, the amadán.


And they do it when you're putting.

Let's talk about discrimination. Scissors. Cameras. Video cameras. Bread knives. Power tools. Fountain pens. Trousers with one back pocket. Trouser zips. Polo (left-handed players not allowed). Hockey (left-handed players not allowed). Tying neckties. Writing in binders. Cheque-book stubs. Biros on chains in banks. Cash-dispensing machines.

You righties, you can be so smug. Just because you represent about 89 per cent of the population you think you have the right to design a world suited only to yourselves. You know little and care less about the daily trials you inflict on us lefties.

Of course, we know - you know - why you do it: jealousy. All the research and statistics and simple observation tell you left-handers are more creative, more artistic, more musical, more perceptive, more in touch with their emotions and more often dally with genius than you right-handed curs.

And, in your bitterness, you attempted for generations to bar us from participating in one of life's purest pleasures: golf. You did this primarily by the simple expedient of refusing to manufacture suitable equipment. You're still at it.

But we lefties - true to our nature - have refused to be beaten down. We have persevered, we have thought laterally, we have, dare I say it, expanded the envelope. And we have conquered. Two consecutive US Masters champions. A British Open champion. And our own World Championship.

Last week the western suburbs of Dublin staged the 16th World Left-handed Golf Championship. Based at Citywest, over 600 men and women from 14 countries gathered to compete in a 72-hole medal format over four courses: Beech Park, Castlewarden, Naas and Citywest.

One of the driving forces behind the event, organised under the auspices of the World Association of Left-handed Golfers (WALG), is Jerry Bradley, an amiable (well, he is left-handed) Corkman exiled to Tuam who served as this year's president of the association. The Irish branch started in Galway in the mid 1980s after a member of Galway GC returned from a left-handed tournament in Canada and decided to set up an Irish organisation. It quickly took off, and Ireland were offered the chance to stage the world championships in 1990, which were held in Galway.

"We had about 250 players from 13 countries," says Bradley. "After that, I sent out a circular to all the golf clubs in the country looking to set up a register of left-handed golfers. There were about 250 clubs in Ireland at the time, and I got back around 100 replies, and from the 100 there was just about 2,000 names and addresses. So I wrote to them all, and - from memory - I think I asked them for a fiver, and 600 responded. So originally we had 600 members, and eventually that came down to a core membership of about 300, and we still have that to date.

"We have six or seven outings a year, we go all around the country, and we have a national (championship) every summer, with usually between 100 and 125 playing in that.

"It really is only an excuse for a game of golf in that way, you know? But we're the only group of golfers who have somewhere to go every year, year-and-a-half . We've been to Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, all over in fact."

So it seems things are improving for lefties, helped no doubt by the success of left-handers on the main tours (remarkably, there are no lefties on the LPGA tour). But even if the big manufacturers are making more left-handed models, that doesn't mean the retailers make much of an effort to stock them, at least not in Ireland.

But here we come to an anomaly: Canada. It's estimated up to 30 per cent of golfers in Canada play left-handed, and this is attributed to the influence of ice hockey. As those of us who love the sport know, an ice hockey team generally has nine forwards who operate as three separate sets, or "lines". Now, each line is going to need a left wing, so generations of right-handed Canadian children have been "converted" and learned to play on the left, with all the eye-hand coordination skills that entails. So, when they come to take up golf, their instinct is to play left-handed.

Another annoyance for lefties is golf instruction, whether it be books, videos, whatever.

They are always talking about your left hand this, right foot that, and you have to train yourself to think in reverse to gain any benefit from it. Why can't they just say top hand or bottom hand? But there are a few books dedicated to lefty instruction (see links above).

Among last week's participants at Citywest was Australian Doug Crosby, a founder member of WALG. He was one of a group of Australians who travelled to play in the US Nationals in 1976 at Monterey, California. That was followed by another group of Australians who played in the British Lefthanders Society. That was the start of international visits and competition, and from talks during those visits it was decided an international championship was a runner. The first World Championship was held in Sydney in March, 1979.

Since its inception, in addition to the main competition, there have also been seniors' and women's competitions. The seniors play for the Tom James Memorial, in memory of one of the founders of left-handed golf in America.

There is also a team event based on the best four gross scores from each country. The winners take away the Doug Crosby World Cup.

So, what's the best thing and the worst thing about being a left-handed golfer?

"The best thing is that we have our own organisation and we have a reason to travel," says Bradley. "Alright, you have societies organised from clubs or work or whatever, but I think we're the only society that have a regular tournament in some part of the world every 18 months or so. We can go if we want, and it gives us the excuse to travel.

"The worst thing? Well, as you know, nearly all the clubs these days are made left-handed. They're not all made left-handed, but at least like you'd have one model of a range. But it is still difficult, as you know, to get all the clubs. And you rarely get to try them out. And you rarely meet up with a left-hander who has a club you'd like to try out, it's usually a right-hander has it."

Next time you see a lefty out on the course, remember: we're the only ones who stand on the right side of the ball.


Started playing golf at the age of nine after following his father's example. His first big move was in 1997 when he came fifth in the Australian Open. He went on to miss out on the second stage of US Qualifying School in 1998 but came through European Tour Qualifying School at his first attempt.


First left-handed golfer to win the US Masters. He was born on May 12th, 1970, and grew up loving hockey. He quickly changed his interest, moving on to golf. At the age of 11 he could be found hitting balls into the lake near his home.


At just 18 months of age had his own home-made cut-down golf club. At the age of three he tried to run away because he was not allowed to go and play golf with his dad. Had a phenomenal amateur career, including playing in the Walker Cup at Portmarnock in 1991. Other than 1999, has captured at least one victoryon the PGA Tour in every full season as a professional. Won US Masters in 2004.

72 Hole Tournament

Open Division: 1st Frederick Park Australia 303, 2nd Joseph Brogdon USA 304, 3rd Brian Lynch Australia 306

Senior Division ( 55+): 1st Peter Read Australia 303, 2nd Jim Pfrogner USA 308, 3rd Mark Avelar USA 310

Super Senior Division (70+): 1st Malcolm Barker England 342, 2nd Sam Woods New Zealand 349, 3rd Harold Bartlett Australia 351

Women's Division: 1st Cornelia Ulm Germany 358, 2nd Frederique Vuagniaux Switzerland 367, 3rd Eileen Powell Ireland 373

Team: Australia won the Doug Crosby World Cup

Holes in One:

Bob Zimmerman (Can) 8th Citywest.

Pat Butler (Ire) 12th Beech Park.

Frank McCabe (Eng) 14th Citywest.

Sam Woods NZ 17th Naas.