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Fielding for England in the Ashes vs the 1st tee at St Andrews

Cricket and golf are Josh Poysden's career and favourite hobby respectively. So what made him more nervous – representing his country or the opening tee shot at the Old Course?
 

It always resonates with me when golfers talk about the 1st tee at the Ryder Cup being the most nerve-racking experience of their career. Not because I have experience of pegging a ball up with 7,000 people watching, but because it’s a rare occasion when golfers experience the pressures of playing in a team.

This is one of the big differences between cricket and golf. In golf, if you fail, you are only failing yourself, and you are only letting yourself down. Cricket can be tough, as you know you are also letting your teammates down.

However, there is nothing better than celebrating a win as a team that you’ve been in the ‘battle’ with, which is probably why a lot of golfers describe Ryder Cup victories as their most treasured memories.

For me personally, the difference in pressures are notable between my cricket and my golf. Cricket is my job, whereas golf is a hobby. I have never stood over a four-foot putt wondering what the consequences on my career would be if I missed it.

Having said that, keeping perspective is important in me performing to the best of my ability on a cricket field, so I try and focus on the process of playing and enjoying the game rather than worrying about outcomes, and what success or failure may mean.

However, that’s not to say I haven’t experienced nerves in both cricket and golf. Through a crazy chain of events, I ended up as a substitute fielder in the 2015 Ashes at Edgbaston. There were injuries to Jimmy Anderson, and another to the 12th man who was supposed to field in his place.

Then another 12th man’s heritage was questioned – he was Scottish therefore ineligible to field for England.

Josh Poysden

This all meant that I was standing at mid-off as Stuart Broad ran in to bowl the first ball of day four in front of 25,000 people at the ground and millions watching from their homes.

As you can imagine, plenty was going through my head, not least because the week before I had been involved in a calamitous piece of fielding for my previous county Warwickshire, in a T20 match broadcast on Sky.

Two hours after taking the field in the Ashes, I managed to hold on to a fairly regulation catch – to my massive relief – and felt like the weight of the world had dropped from my shoulders.

Although I haven’t quite been subbed on to the European Ryder Cup team just yet, all golfers will be aware of the pressure associated with the 1st tee shot at St Andrews. This is probably the most nervous moment I have had with a golf club in my hand.

The iconic, historic R&A building looms over you as you look out to ‘the widest fairway in golf’. There weren’t 25,000 people watching, but with the tourists scattered around the vicinity, and my mediocre golf game, it felt not too dissimilar.

I kept it in bounds (just about), hitting a power fade (slice) down the right-hand side, well over Granny Clark’s Wynd.

It was another lesson to me, in both cricket and golf, that the thoughts you have bear no impact on your performance or on what comes next – life is full of ‘it wasn’t as bad as I thought’ moments!

Josh Poysden is a professional cricketer for Yorkshire CCC. He’s also a keen golfer and has a particular interest in golf course architecture. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Dan Murphy

Dan Murphy

Dan loves links golf, which doesn't mean he is very good at it. He is a four-handicapper at Alwoodley. A qualified journalist and senior editor with 25 years’ experience, he was the long-time editor of NCG. His passion is golf courses and he is the founding editor of NCG Top 100s course rankings. He loves nothing more than discovering and highlighting courses that are worthy of greater recognition.

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