In a very special edition of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Player Blog, Gareth Bale talks about his pride in supporting his home national Open, his passion for promoting the game to young kids globally, how Celtic Manor’s Ryder Cup inspired him, and shooting the best round of life at a future U.S. Open venue in his new hometown of Los Angeles…
I’ve been in LA three weeks now, so I’m settling in well, it took a little bit of time to adjust to the jetlag and changing to a new city, new life, new surroundings, finding out how to get to training and back! It’s been good, I’ve settled in very well, the team have been fantastic in terms of welcoming me and the fans have been incredible here too, so it’s been quite a smooth transition, but I’ve got to keep going now and keep grinding.
I haven’t had time to touch golf over here yet, it’s been a lot to organise in terms of finding a house and all the stuff that comes with moving but obviously I know a lot of the courses over here. I come here a lot on vacation so I’ve played most of the courses in the area – LA Country Club, Riviera, Pebble Beach, Cyprus Point - and I know how good they are, and hopefully in the future when I’m settled and have a couple of days free I’m looking forward to playing a round again.
I actually shot three under at LA Country Club, probably one of the best rounds of my life. It was a great day because I shot that round and had played with a member – one of my brother-in-law’s friends – and he kind of rushed off after the round and I thought, that’s a bit rude! But finally when I left the course, I had a surprise 30th birthday party waiting for me in the house we were staying in, with all my friends from Wales and all over. My friend had actually rushed off to be there for the surprise, so it turned out to be a good day - I shot three under and had a surprise birthday party. I know the U.S. Open is going to be there at LA Country Club next year too so I’m looking forward to that.
I haven’t played a lot in the last few months so my game will probably be a bit rusty, but prior to that I was playing some good stuff. I’m off 2.5 at the moment, and I’m pretty solid playing to that even though I don’t play a lot. Whenever I have a chance I do a little grind here and there, whether that is putting on the practice mat or whatever keeps me ticking over.
I remember when I was younger I played once or twice in the summer, we used to go to a par three course with my dad. We used to have a Slazenger seven iron and Slazenger putter from Sports Direct or something, we used to play the par threes a couple of times in the summer, but I never really played seriously until I moved to Tottenham. There was a group of us - Brad Friedel, Michael Dawson, Carlo Cudicini, and a few others – who all liked to play. I started to play a lot more then, probably around 2010-ish. I just started to get into it, we had a good golf group and we played when we could. The addiction grew from there!
There are a couple of things that make golf so popular with footballers. Obviously in football you’re training every day, playing matches, working hard, so if you’re playing another sport you don’t want to be running, for example, around a tennis court like a mad man and making yourself even more tired. The fact you can go on a buggy, just relax, play some golf, it’s not too strenuous, you’re out of the house with friends, away from the bubble of football where the pressure is on quite a lot. It’s just nice to get away for three or four hours with your mates and just try to get better at golf somehow!
I always saw that there was an event on the DP World Tour in Wales with the Wales Open, now the Cazoo Open, and everyone knows I love golf and obviously I love Wales, so it felt like a good opportunity to get involved. We have our golf side of the agency which is now CAA Stellar, previously ICM Stellar, so it felt a good time to really get involved. For one, I want to try and grow the event itself, to make it better for Welsh people to watch and attend. We also do a Festival of Sport which only started this year and it was quite small to start with, but it was just the first year to introduce it and we’re excited to make that bigger and better.
We are working with Wales Golf and now we’re bringing 400 or 500 kids to come and watch the tournament this week. We’re trying to give them more than just a golf tournament, an environment where families came come and enjoy themselves, not just watch golf but play a bit of golf and a there are a few other sports challenges in the village too. We’re just trying to grow golf in Wales, get more kids involved, maybe give them more of a taste of the golf environment. I certainly wish I got introduced at a younger age, and I just want to give back a little bit and try get kids into golf. You get a lot of opportunities to play football and rugby but you don’t get many opportunities to get started in golf. I think this is a cool way to get kids to start watching it and hopefully that will give them an opportunity. Hopefully then, there are a few who take a love of it and really do shine and go on to become professionals.
People think golf is quite easy but it’s a good exercise for anyone to get out there walking no matter what age, weight or height you are. You can go out and have a three or four hour round of golf with your friends, it’s a good environment and gets you away form the hustle and bustle of life. It’s normally very calm on the golf course, very tranquil so it’s a great sport for many reasons. It’s a good workout to keep yourself in shape as well.
I’m very disappointed I can’t be there this week and play in the Pro-Am this week and be involved in the whole tournament. But obviously this opportunity in LA came along and it felt like the right move for me, so unfortunately I’m not able to be there but I’m giving my support in any way I can. I’m very jealous my friends are getting to play in the Pro-Am especially and I’ll be looking out for some bad scores on the Pro-Am leaderboard!
I had only just started to properly play golf consistently when the Ryder Cup came to Wales and it was just an incredible event. I was desperate to go and I got my tickets, and I loved it. Just watching Tiger play, seeing the Americans and the Europeans battling it out was such a cool experience. It definitely got me more into golf, wanting to play more having seen how they strike the ball, how they play, the atmosphere around the tournament. It was a historic event in Wales and it was cool to be able to watch it in person.
Celtic Manor is a great resort, for me it’s one of the best resorts certainly in UK, and I spend Christmases there with my family. Whenever I’m home I always play at Celtic Manor, whether on the Twenty Ten, the Montgomerie or the Roman Road course – it’s just got everything for everybody and the golf courses are fantastic. To be able to host the Cazoo Open at Celtic Manor just showcases how good the courses are, and obviously the Ryder Cup was played there. It’s great for the family come down, lots to do for the kids – archery, pools, kids clubs and loads of activities for them to do and the food is great there. It’s just a great place to be, and it’s special to me because I spend a lot of time there with my family.
As soon as I wake up every morning this week, I’ll be straight up trying to watch the Cazoo Open, and if not I’ll definitely be watching the highlights online. I’ll be taking a keen interest in our players Zheng-kai ‘Bobby’ Bai and Elvis Smylie and hopefully they have a great week, make the cut and you never know, hopefully even win. I’m expecting another great event this year and hopefully we can keep growing the tournament and going in the right direction. In years to come, hopefully we can keep making it bigger and better.