How to be a champion - By PJ Willett

‘Fat, bald prick.’ ‘Your breath stinks.’ ‘The shape of your head is disgusting.’ ‘You small, useless ponce.’

After eleven years of teaching, insults become meaningless. ‘You’ve got cardboard shoes and a tiny dick, probably...’ ...nothing.

However, there’s still one line of attack that elicits a defensive response: ‘Your brother’s a professional golfer?! Aren’t you jealous?’

I always answer, ‘Of course not. I’m really proud of him. I love my job. I couldn’t do what he does… all that travelling. I’d never see my family.’

The student will continue to pry. ‘So, your brother is one of the best golfers in the world… and you teach drama! Aren’t your parents disappointed?’

My rote response is never convincing. ‘My job is amazing; I love what I do. I could’ve done what Danny did – but I didn’t want to… shut up and get back to work.’

Detecting my annoyance, the student will try to console me.

‘He don’t deserve all that money; it’s daft! You work just as hard.’

Ignoring my boredom, the student will drift into fantasy.

‘I’m going to be a golfer. I’m going to earn millions just for walking around. He’s right lucky. Why didn’t you do it, Sir? Earn millions just for walking around?’

A good teacher searches for opportunities to impart wisdom in even the most banal of encounters.

With that in mind, I respond.

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12

‘As a twelve year old I ran the 100m in a time that my PE teacher described as ‘lightning’.

I decided to make my millions as an Olympian.

At twelve, Danny would chip golf balls into a bucket in the back garden. Piles of them, all over the garden, from every different angle. He would hit it from long grass, short grass, and use a patch of mud like a bunker.

Hour after hour, just chipping.

I joined an athletics club, but my progress was halted by a chocolate-only diet, a fascination with cigarettes, and an obsession with a new computer game called Wipeout.

I never made it as an Olympian.

 

15

By fifteen, I received the Player of the Year award for scoring 28 goals in 18 games for Birley Spa Juniors.

I decided to make my millions as a footballer.

At fifteen, Danny was being courted by the England selectors. He would spend every evening, and twenty hours of the weekend, at the course. When he couldn’t make it to the course, he would putt up and down the hallway, cursing every time the contact was not right. Hour after hour, just putting.

I didn’t win the Player of the Year award again as I missed too many matches and training sessions, because of hangovers and an obsession with a new computer game called Metal Gear Solid.

I never made it as a footballer.

 

18

At the age of eighteen, I had performed in a number of productions, often as the lead. I decided to make my millions as an actor.

At eighteen, Danny went to university in America and divided his time between non-stop, competitive golf in the States, and continual practice on the course when at home during the holidays.

Whenever he was confined to the house he had an infuriating habit of standing in front of the TV while repeating stages of his swing in slow motion, studying the reflection of his body in the window and adjusting where necessary.

Hour after hour, just swinging.

I did a drama degree, but my commitment to performance was compromised by an appreciation for all substances recreational, and an obsession with a new computer game called Halo.

I never made it as an actor.

 

21

When I turned twenty-one, I made a 19% return on a £500 investment. I decided to make my millions as an entrepreneur.  

At twenty-one, Danny made the risky decision to cut short his university education so he could become a member of the European Tour.

He would hit more than 800 golf balls a day, every single day of the week; and when he wasn't hitting balls he was analysing which aspect of his game he could improve by hitting 800 balls in a specific way the following day.

Hour after hour, just hitting.

I joined an American door-to-door sales cult, had to dispose of a shipment of 'Oakley' sunglasses due to the threat of legal action, and got fired from a lucrative job because of an obsession with a new computer game called World of Warcraft.

I never made it as an entrepreneur.

 

The penny drops?

At this point, I step back, stare intently at the student, and hope to witness the metaphorical penny drop...

'You were a fast runner?'

'I was, but...'

'There's no way you scored 28 in a season!'

'I did, but...

'You were a smack-head?!'

'I wasn't, but... look, you're missing the point.'

'I'm gonna be a golfer, earn millions for walking around… He's right lucky your brother.'

The penny didn't drop.

A year ago I finished my debut novel, my sister-in-law tells me it's great. I've decided I want to make millions as a writer.

Danny has just played eighteen holes in Germany and a tweet has been sent showing him practising on the range in the dark.

He'll be there for hours, just practising.

I'm trying to write my second book, but it's taking a while because the wife and I love drinking Prosecco, and I'm obsessed with a new computer game called Fallout 4.

The penny never drops.

Aspiring author. Experienced teacher. Inadequate father. Brilliant husband. I have been known to tweet about golf.