Golf Monthly's Jeremy Ellwood played golf with Prostate Cancer UK ambassador and former England footballer Matt Le Tissier to talk about fundraising for The Big Golf Race
Matt Le Tissier On His Love For Golf And Raising Awareness For Prostate Cancer UK
Golf is a sociable game, isn’t it? Every round brings more than three-and-a-half hours to chat, tease and find out about other people’s lives.
When you’ve never met your companion before, that opportunity becomes even greater, especially when they’ve played professional football and pulled on an England shirt.
That’s what happened to me recently at Worplesdon in Surrey, where I played with Southampton legend turned TV pundit, Matt Le Tissier.
Over the early holes we chat about his career, what part golf plays in his life and why Prostate Cancer UK is a charity dear to his heart.
He tells me that he signed with Southampton on a YTS scholarship in 1985 and that “the next 17 years went very quickly”.
He never planned to stay at one club but is pretty proud that Southampton were never relegated during his time, despite some close calls.
The golf bug
He didn’t play golf growing up, but by the time he hung up his boots he was playing off 8.
He was down to 3 before the WHS awarded him a handicap index of 1.4, which he describes as “a bit above my paygrade”.
He tells me he once played golf 19 days in a row, that Jimmy Bullard is the best golfing footballer he’s played with, that tour pro Richard Bland once lodged in his spare room and that he is addicted to the game at 52 years of age.
He also recalls a conversation with Tommy Fleetwood, where they compared the pressure of a short putt with that of taking a crucial penalty.
His footballing days have clearly stood him in good stead for those nervous four-footers.
By the time we reach the beautiful par-3 4th, about 45 minutes have elapsed.
Sadly, in that space of time, a man somewhere in the UK will have died of prostate cancer. That’s the harsh reality of over 11,500 deaths a year.
It’s the most common cancer in men and age is a risk factor.
Once a man passes 50 they are at significantly more risk of getting prostate cancer.
Matt, I and tens of thousands of UK golfers are in that higher-risk group, hence Matt’s eagerness to increase awareness by wearing his Prostate Cancer UK ‘Man of Men’ badge for many years.
Find out more: prostatecanceruk.org/golf
The charity sees golf as a great way to increase awareness among the men at the highest risk of prostate cancer and to raise money to fund lifesaving research.
Golf is a perfect fit, not only because of the age demographic, but also because the sport has a long history of fundraising through captains’ charities and fun challenges to keep golfers entertained.
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“My involvement goes back quite a few years,” Le Tissier says.
“I had a couple of close friends who were diagnosed with prostate cancer but thankfully got over it because it was found early enough, which is one of the key things.
“The guys at Prostate Cancer UK have done a fantastic job, along with Jeff Stelling and the boys from Soccer Saturday, in promoting awareness of prostate cancer on the show.
“Understanding your prostate risk and early detection is key. I’m in that age group and I went to have a chat with my doctor. I think it’s important that we do that as men. You might not be feeling anything, but there’s no harm in having a conversation.”
Golf courses are great places to chat things through, aren’t they?
“I think there was a time when, with men of our age, it wasn’t something you would speak about – it was a very private thing,” Le Tissier says.
“But I think that time has gone – we now realise it is the right thing to do and that sharing is caring.”
We still have several holes to go, and I have more questions for him, like what was the best thing about being a footballer?
“Scoring a winner or laying one on for someone else,” he tells me.
And the worst thing? Le Tissier is in no doubt: “Pre-season training!”
Do many footballers let themselves get out of shape in the off-season, I ask. “Yes, and I was one of them!” he replies.
Prostate Cancer UK’s The Big Golf Race
Thousands of like-minded golfers are raising funds for Prostate Cancer UK by taking on The Big Golf Race, a four- or two-round challenge.
Just get a team together, choose a date and course and get fundraising.
“This is a great initiative,” says Le Tissier.
“The more golf you can play, the better for me! Even if you can’t do four, then two – let’s call it a half marathon with four being a whole marathon. Four rounds in a day and I’ll probably be aching for about three weeks afterwards at 52, but let’s go for it!”
Why not join the biggest team in golf and help beat prostate cancer, just like Danny Willett, who made Prostate Cancer UK his chosen charity for his recent hosting of the British Masters?