The man is called Beef for God’s sake. I mean what a name!
Imagine you’re introduced to a group of lads… ‘This is Smithy, Jonesy, Fred and this guy is Beef’ immediately you’re wanting to know more about Beef... and you’re definitely picking Beef out of the group too.
And when Beef happens to be a professional golfer and look a little bit different to the convention people start paying attention.
Not just people inside golf but the mainstream media. The type of media that aren’t normally interested in golf.
Then you go to America and they go crazy for absolutely anything... Donald Trump says ‘Build a wall’ and they’re like a WWE crowd. It’s mental.
‘Hey this guy’s called ‘Beef’. I like Beef. He’s got a big beard. I’ve got a big beard. He’s a little bit fat. I’m VERY fat…’
And so the caricature is built. The one-dimensional slightly fat dude we shout at called Beef. And do you know what he smiles too. He’s my new favourite golfer.
Do you know what else, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. God knows golf needs it. It needs attention more than ever, especially positive attention from outside its insular walls.
And there is nothing against America, they make people famous. The list of British exports is endless... The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, One Direction, Piers M... Nah, I won't go there!
In an era without a firing Tiger golf is struggling for attention and it’s crying out for a personality.
Someone different to the superstars inside golf. Surrounded by yes men and pounced upon by the media if they say a word out of line. I mean they’ve almost neutered Rory for God’s sake.
But for a personality to breathe and be relatable to the masses it can’t just be a cartoon character… the slightly fat nice guy with a beard who looks different.
Firstly that detracts from everything else that is great about Andrew Johnston, who I believe has the potential to take himself, and golf, to a whole new level.
But in the 2016 we live in of iPhones and Pokemon Go the masses’ attention span is shorter than ever and the character ‘Beef’ could be gone before you know it and people have moved on to the next thing…
Inside the Beef...
What was I talking about there? Oh yeah… that Beef chap.
So we’ve heard all the frenzy and everything to do with hitting burgers off tees or where he got his nickname from so when we got some time with him we wanted to find out something a little different.
Dig a little deeper, get inside the Beef. Not in that way you dirty scoundrels! What a thought!
Yes we’ll have a laugh but we’ll also find out some different things. Is he really like this? Is he liable to change the more bigtime he gets and what really makes him tick?
First of all behind the smile and the nickname is proper character.
Not just that laughy, jokey character but that determined, competitive and confident character that you see in top sportspeople. You simply don’t make it to the top level without one in most sports.
Dig deeper and you can see a little further into how this character developed and what molded him into someone that is not only playing but competing at the very pinnacle of his sport.
He grew up in North London to working class parents. His father Noel was a bus driver and his half-Jamaican mother was a dinner lady at his local school. (I didn’t even know he was Jamaican but it makes sense. He’s chilled, likes hip-hop and has curly unmanageable hair under his trademark cap!)
He got into golf playing at local parks and pitch and putts when he was four with his Dad.
At 15 he was off scratch, 16 he was in the England squad and then at 17 his father Noel passes away. And this is the first time you see that Beef is unique.
When you ask him about this subject, one which happened at such a pivotal age in a male’s life, his first response is positive.
“Yeh it was difficult because you do everything with him but I know sometimes when a family member passes away families can split but ours went closer.
“My mum and sister came to a lot of tournaments, my sister even caddied. My brother helped out and so did all our family, friends and the golf club. Everyone was really supportive.”
But despite the support he still admits to getting a bit lost, understandably you might think. He’d have full blown arguments with England Golf and often cause problems. And this is after a legendary England Golf drunken away trip in Inverness (Story coming soon on our new YouTube channel… You don’t want to miss it!)
“I’d always stand up for what I believed in but I was probably a bit immature for 19.’
Luckily for him after a bad situation came a good one where as a confused young lad lacking direction he met his current manager Shaun Reddin, a member of a local club. Beef had no money and didn’t really know what to do moving forward with his golf.
Shaun took him on, funding him to turn pro and compete on the very competitive Jamega Tour. For a savvy businessperson there had to be a real belief in his ability and character to do such a thing, especially given his track record and recent bereavement.
Beef admits he probably wouldn’t be playing now if it weren’t for him.
And as a 19-year old fresh pro playing the mini-tours it’s a tough gig that most people will never truly experience, with a whole load of guys with the same dream.
Sharing hotel rooms, living with no money and not being able to afford Christmas presents isn’t the professional golf dream most people think of… and rising through the levels isn’t easy. They’re not chucking journeymen boxers for a payday at you like Anthony Joshua… these guys are all battling.
“No matter what tour you play there is good players everywhere. You look at the scores on Jamega there’ll always be under par, -10 or -11 for two rounds. Same as Europro.
“There’s no mugs on any tour.
“But you just keep going for the love of the game.”
One year into being a pro he was struggling financially and desperately interviewed in the City for a job. He was offered the over the phone but impulsively and confidently told the company he was going to play golf over a cup of tea in the Angel Islington Starbucks.
And it was maybe this confidence, impulsiveness and a real mix of hard work and talent that saw him clamber up the mini-tour ladder, before getting knocked back down partly due to an injury, before getting back on the main tour in 2016.
The Spanish/Mexican party
He wins the Spanish Open, tells everyone he’s going to get hammered and shit explodes.
Everywhere he goes people are screaming his name and he’s transcending the sport on both sides of the Atlantic.
Even in the week after the Valderrama when he had his homecoming party that we went along to you knew this guy was special.
After popping him a little message asking him if we could come and get hammered with him he invited us along and we were greeted with a half-cut bloke with a smile from ear to ear dressed in a pinata outfit (Mexico/Spanish… all the same innit!)
He said ‘Thanks for coming, go to the bar, get whatever you want, it’s all on me.’
We bought our own drinks as did the completely packed and singing North Middlesex Golf Club who were so proud of the lad that they’d seen grow up… Apparently his bar tab was a mere £360 and if you saw him at the end of the night you’d think most of that was him!
But after he led the whole golf club in a shout of ‘Wanker, Wanker, Wanker’ to me next to me slightly uncomfortable girlfriend nearly everyone in that golf club came up to me and said the same things.
‘Beef won’t change, trust me, Beef won’t change.’
‘This is just the start. He’s a winner. He’ll go for it and isn’t afraid of losing.’
And you were inclined to agree with them.
Fast forward again to a week ago and Beef comes to do our podcast. His manager has changed dates a couple of times as he is super busy and we’re beginning to think ‘here we go, he’s getting bigtime!’
The man comes down on the tube by himself, rocks up to the pub we record above and asks what everyone wants to drink.
(NB: We buy the drinks even though he’s won over a €1m already this year. Although he did get his round in to be fair!)
He then does an interview and speaks for two hours in a podcast even though we kept checking he was cool with it and gave him opportunities to leave. He then bought a round of drinks down in the pub after with only one guy there who he’d met before… before reluctantly jumping in an Uber.
He was keen to stay for more beers but it was a prep week and we were persuading him to go. Partly because I knew we’d get a bollocking off his manager.
That prep week led to a third place in Switzerland and a €169,020 cheque.
So, forgetting the hype and Americans going mad for Beef sandwiches.
This guy is the real deal. A proper top bloke, who has worked hard through adversity, to get to the top level and he looks like he’s staying there to do a bit.
Beef is an example to all. Don’t take yourself too seriously, work hard and be nice… And always get your round in down the pub!
Stay tuned for the launch of our new YouTube channel featuring two classic Beef interviews and check out his podcast here on Soundcloud or subscribe to #GCW on iTunes Podcasts
I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.