Everton footballers display professionalism even in golf

At a quick lunch at Tanah Merah Country Club yesterday, a small media party was enjoying the company of the English Premier League (EPL) club Everton's players.

I was among a group of six journalists slated for a round of golf at the Garden course with the players who are here for the Barclays Asia Trophy.

Then came the announcement that due to a lightning warning the golf game would not tee-off until almost an hour later.

The media party sat back to have more coffee and tea, while the Everton players dashed off to the club's driving range to hit balls or practise at the chipping area.

Believe it, a professional sportsman will always be professional in whatever sports he indulges in.

And discipline is key for them, for sport's a career that brings bread and butter to them.

No doubt, it was only a social game, but what struck me most about the Everton footballers was the manner in which they conducted themselves in a crowded Garden Terrace.

They were down-to-earth, obliging with autographs and posing for pictures. They carried an infectious smile, Steven Naismith, John Stones et al.

It was so obvious with the two players, Phil Jagielka and Tom Cleverley, with whom I played 13 holes before the duo dashed off to a club sponsor's event.

"Joker" Jagielka, 32, is an eight-handicapper, while "Nice Guy" Cleverley, 25, plays off a 14-handicap, and a strong one at that.

And although the duo, playing with hired clubs in the heat and humidity, and on a course very unfamiliar to them, could not justify their handicaps, their attitude and application impressed me.

Club captain Jagielka, slated to play in the Iconic Players Cup - a golf game among top professional sportsmen - here in 2017, is a long-hitter, easily finding 240 metres off the tee.

But his distance judgment was off the boil, a classy eight-iron and a massive drive, contrastingly both finding water on the same hole - the par-four 237-metre sixth hole.

Cleverley does not find Jagielka's length, but he played some decent shots that bagged him pars on difficult holes.

With a steady partner in Lawrence Young, 60, and a former national cricketer who plays off a 13-handicap, I combined well to eke out a 3-up triumph over 13 holes.

But what Young and I enjoyed most was the banter, mixed with serious talk, that brought out the true characters of two professional footballers, both with England national caps.

TWO-WAY CONTEST

For Jagielka, "next season's EPL title is heading towards a two-way contest between Chelsea and Manchester City, with Everton in line for a place in Europe".

Cleverley feels that his former club Manchester United "with good signings in Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger would feature among the top with Arsenal and Liverpool".

Having spent three seasons with the omnipresent Sir Alex Ferguson, his assessment of the maestro is: "The best. His man-management was superb, it is not easy for any manager to work with 20 internationals.

"Also a great motivator who knew his players well. He won the respect of players, and is much feared."

What about current United manager Louis van Gaal, who actually made it clear to Cleverley that he did not figure in his plans?

His reply: "He's very honest and that's all you ask from your manager as a footballer. He told me straight how it was going to be."

Their picks for the ongoing golf's British Open? Jagielka hopes Englishmen Justin Rose or Paul Casey wins it, while Cleverley plumps for Sergio Garcia.

Seemingly wild picks, but they were honest with their choices.

As honest as they can be, for they, having lost the wagered golf game, bought my partner and I a couple of beers after the game.

And they downed only ice-cold water before they rushed off.

True professionals, these.


This article was first published on July 17, 2015.
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