Nick Rodger Nick Rodger
Did you know that Tiger Woods once played with Alan Tait? But you knew that, of course. The story of Tait’s Tiger is so well known in local circles that it really should be displayed in the British Golf Museum in its own display case.
In preparation for the 1995 Scottish Open at Carnoustie, just a reminder for those of you who don’t know – and there are undoubtedly village elders of a remote tribe in Sarawak who know the story well – Tait played a practice round with Tiger.
Woods was in the U.S. then. Amateur champion, and superstar already. At the impressive Angus course, Tait was the course record holder, and his local experience and knowledge of contacts were much sought after by Woods.
As Tait recalled in countless glass-clinking after-dinner speeches, the rest is history. “The first time I told the story, I said the crowd around the first tee was about 1,000, but at last count I think it’s grown to about 20,000,” Tait said with a chuckle.
Tait, a great bundle of charm and a man so steeped in golf that you have to wring him out almost weekly, has maintained an unwavering passion for the game he adores in his 30-year professional career.
The 51-year-old has never been one to idly twiddle his thumbs with a multitasking skill once reserved for a Swiss Army knife.
He spreads the golf gospel at the grassroots level with the creative, instructional and entertaining GolPhin program in his current place. He said of the far-reaching junior program, “It’s a breath of fresh air,” I’ve held the position of golf director at different places for the past 20 years, and as much as I’ve enjoyed them, they’ve been pretty stressful. No matter what you did, you were always made fun of by people.
I enjoyed bringing something back into the game all the time. This article is about getting children excited about golf, but also helping clubs reinforce their junior divisions. It is really gratifying.
At a young age, Tait’s own golf education started and took him for a single, fleeting season as far as the European Tour. The learning experience in that hard knocks school, however, was a difficult one.
“I got a beer and said to myself, ‘That’s it, I’ve done it,’ when I came off the last green at the 1996 Qualifying School final and won my passport,” reflected the former Scottish boys’ champion and former Tartan Tour No. 1. “I had waited for that moment all my life and naively believed I would make millions and travel the world for years. I am ashamed, to this day, to say it. I was dreaming of conquering the world, but I wasn’t even close to setting foot on the ladder.
I had received such a wake-up call within a few months. I had gotten a massive scare. The players of the journeymen were a different class, not to mention the stars. I was in the middle of the season before I knew it and had gained absolutely nothing. The strain was mounting and it became a panic. I had barely any sponsors, and it cost another £ 1,000 or so every time I boarded a flight.
It might have been different if I had someone to direct me and advise me, but I just took it into my own hands. I’ve had one year and I just got caught in the spotlight. Look at the young guys on the tour who are popular, like Bob MacIntyre or Connor Syme. The amount is staggering, and for what they do, I admire them.’
“Tait’s own efforts on the home front are also worth a salute. His Get Back To Golf Tour gave professionals and amateurs the chance to compete in a year hit by a pandemic, suddenly faced with a devastated schedule. “I woke up at 3 a.m. One morning, thinking about these players who had little to play for,” says Tait, who has created a series of paid mini-tours nationally over the years. “I put together eight tournaments, and it was an opportunity for them to play a little golf and make a little money.
It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but the players’ reaction was so positive that next year I wanted to continue it. I’ve already arranged 12 tournaments, including a little sponsorship to fill the pots. I don’t get much out of it, but it’s a nice thing to do.
Golf is blessed to have people like Tait. Again, what was the story with Tiger?