By Alex Narey published
How Becky Brewerton Restored My Faith In Interviewing Golfers
It was June 2008 and I remember it like it was yesterday. I had not long been working for this publication when my editor asked if I would go to a golf resort in Surrey as there was an opportunity to interview a ‘top player’.
“Five-page feature. We’ll get some good pictures. We could even get him on the cover.”
The player, who shall remain nameless, was promoting his involvement in a video game - no, it wasn’t that player - and so it was the usual drill: you get some time, just as long as you plug the goods. Simple.
I was excited and nervous. I’d worked in other sectors of sports journalism but really, this was my first interview with someone I considered a global and international star. I understood I wouldn’t be the only journalist present and that things would be on a tight schedule, and so the ten minutes that were promised in an email – one-on-one – seemed fair enough.
I prepare my questions and arrive in good time, and am ushered over by a PR guy who introduces me to my man. Everybody seems agitated. The PR guy is flustered and barking ‘instructions’, while the player looks fed up that he is where he is, having to give up a small amount of his time so we can plug this video game that he is no doubt being paid handsomely for.
From the word go it is clear I have to toe the line. The interview begins and it’s an awkward start. The handshake is a bit clumsy and he clearly doesn’t hear my name as he calls me Alan. And it just gets worse...
Short, abrupt answers put me on the back foot and I lose my train of thought. I laugh sycophantically as I look to make things more comfortable (for both of us). But then, from nowhere, there’s a tap on the shoulder. The PR guy has called time. The interview is over. A “tight schedule,” he reminds me, so tight that I was afforded two minutes and 13 seconds. Five pages and a front cover shoot might be a push…
As a parting shot, another PR guy asks if I have everything I need, not for my interview, but for the video game plug. I leave feeling utterly deflated before making an awkward phone call to the office
Same old story
Truth is, I have lost count of the number of player interviews that have unfolded like this. I’m not complaining; there is no right for journalists to have interviews with top players simply fall on their lap and it should be noted that the game has a number of outstanding golf writers who make the very most from their sources – with their opinions holding as much weight as any player’s.
And golfers do give brilliant interviews; there are few sportspeople who deliver soundbites like Rory McIlroy, while Lee Westwood – both on social media and in front of a microphone – is rarely guarded with honest, forthright and humorous opinions.
Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose – just a small number of the many who have delivered great copy. But frustratingly, and when it comes to gathering content in order to tell stories, the you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours agreement rarely works in your favour, and the above scenario has been a fairly common script.
But there are times when things run very differently, when there are no flustered PR guys and no goods to plug. Last week, after interviewing two-time Solheim Cup player Becky Brewerton, my faith was restored.
For background, Becky came to the attention of the social media landscape last week when she penned a very emotional and heartfelt blog about why her golf game had deteriorated. It was titled: How did I become so bad at golf? and laid bare some hard-hitting home truths about her drop in form that started in 2012 following injury from a bike accident which slowly decayed into the yips. From there, her mental state would decline to such an extent that she was terrified of playing the game she loved.
Just as she had been in her emotive and beautifully crafted piece – which if you haven’t read, you should – Becky was incredibly honest during our chat, going into the finest detail as she revealed the depths she would sink to as she battled with the demons in her head.
Knowing she was defeated before she had teed off; working multiple part-time jobs just to bring in some income; crying in her room not knowing if the game that was her livelihood would ever return. It reached a point where the weekly grind of tournament play was a recurring nightmare as fear and nerves grabbed her in a vice-like grip.
"I had a ten-year exemption on the Ladies European Tour," Brewerton said. "So for ten years it didn't matter what I did, I would always be one of the first names on the sheet for any tournament I wanted to play in. And what kept happening was I would get into the cycle of thinking, 'It might be alright this week, you've been feeling OK in practice, this could be the one'.
"But I never knew if it would be the one or not, until I started walking to the first tee on a Thursday because that is when it would hit me. I could be fine Monday and Tuesday but as the week progressed I would feel it. I was trying to convince myself it wouldn't happen. But it always did."
Back on track...
That was just a snippet of our discussion. We spent over an hour on the phone, conducted in a somewhat old-fashioned way where there seemed to be trust between two parties, even though we had never met and this was the first time we had spoken. On a few occasions, I asked if she was happy for me to run certain things, so strong were her revelations. But nothing was off the record. It was an open book.
Her goal is simply to play again and enjoy it. Thankfully – and this was one of the reasons why she chose to write her piece in the first place – she now feels there is some closure with an eye on the future and her game improving.
My interview with Becky followed a piece Golf Monthly ran recently with Hannah Gregg, a development tour player from the US who revealed eloquently about the financial struggles she, and many others face, in the women’s game after opening up on social media.
Interviewing professional golfers should be the most exciting part of this job. But too often it can be difficult to break across the dividing line that prevents fewer journalists the access to showcase a great story.
In both Becky and Hannah’s case, they had already showcased theirs, but it didn’t mean there wasn’t more to tell.
Read our full interview with Becky Brewerton in the February issue of Golf Monthly, on sale January 6.
Alex began his journalism career in regional newspapers in 2001 and moved to the Press Association four years later. He spent three years working at Dennis Publishing before first joining Golf Monthly, where he was on the staff from 2008 to 2015 as the brand's managing editor, overseeing the day-to-day running of our award-winning magazine while also contributing across various digital platforms. A specialist in news and feature content, he has interviewed many of the world's top golfers and returns to Golf Monthly after a three-year stint working on the Daily Telegraph's sports desk. His current role is diverse as he undertakes a number of duties, from managing creative solutions campaigns in both digital and print to writing long-form features for the magazine. Alex has enjoyed a life-long passion for golf and currently plays to a handicap of 13 at Tylney Park Golf Club in Hampshire.
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