Eyes of the Tiger . . . the Sunderland golfer whose sights are fixed on his fairway obsession

Written by on 8th April 2022

The world’s most famous golfer is far from the only player whose life revolves around the game. Meet the weekend hacker who is dedicated to teeing it up like the pros

When Tiger Woods – just 14 months on from cheating death and almost losing a leg in a car crash – shot below par in the opening round of the 2022 Masters, many people saw it as the ultimate example of the power of sporting obsession.

So, what does that say about the amateur golfer who fixates with getting a single figure handicap, simply to please themselves?

David Middleton, a 28-year-old digital learning consultant, started playing from a young age thanks to the encouragement of his father, David Sr.

Middleton said: “It was a three-lesson thing from one of my dad’s mates when I was 11, if that. 

It was at George Washington Golf Club and it started off with just the basics of how to grip the club, how to putt properly and it just kind of escalated from there really.

“I didn’t really go forward from when I got into it. I didn’t stick at it. 

I kind of half-regret that I didn’t. It would have been a hell of a lot easier if I’d stuck at it and got more lessons when I was younger. But football came first.”

David’s clubs gathered dust for years as he pursued other sports, but he got back into it two to three years ago and hasn’t looked back.

However, it was clear to David that improving his game after such a long layoff wouldn’t be easy and that he’d have to persevere and eventually seek professional help.

He added: “Initially my love from the game pulled me through and it was all done independently. 

“I didn’t really do much video watching, I wasn’t at the standard where that kind of stuff, in my opinion, would’ve helped me. It would’ve confused the game too much and would’ve led my game into being worse than it was better. 

“As time went on, I got a lesson in the October of 2019 and played the only season of winter golf I’ve ever played in my life, all the way through from October to March then I saw a massive improvement.

“I was playing three or four times a week including practicing on dinner hours. 

“I didn’t mind the conditions, however if you asked me now, I would avoid winter golf like the plague. 

Heworth Golf Club clubhouse

“At the time it was just that journey I was on. Conditions weren’t the easiest as I was playing at Heworth where it does get wet in the winter. 

“I would say the winter golf really did enhance my game when the grass started firming up.”

David was engulfed by his love of the game and he is not alone with most people – but the real question is why do people become so obsessed?

David said: “For me, it’s you and the course. You’ve got nobody else to blame, it’s you against the course and conditions.

“There’s that much that can go wrong with it when it does go right…it’s incredible. You have the round of your life and just can’t wait to get back out again. 

But then the next time there’s a 20-shot difference.”

Middleton’s father, Sr, is also a keen golfer and echoed his son’s words.

He said: “You just want to get better and better and better. 

“When you have one good round, you think the next day you’re going to go out and better it. When it goes back over and you don’t achieve it, you get yourself a bit down but then the next round you come back and bounce back. 

“It’s up and down. It’s golf!”

Even at the age of 58, he is trying to improve his game to get up to his son’s level. 

“Its practice, practice, practice for me. 

“The best way is to find a football pitch, and go with you 9 iron or pitching wedge and try and land it in the 18-yard box.

“Then you get clever and try to go for 12 yards from the goal line and then to landing it in the six-yard box, trying not to go over the goal line. You just keep practising because that’s all the pros do. 

“It’s drills, its drills, its drills so when you come onto a golf course, from 100-110 yards, you’ll just hit your 9 iron the full length of a football pitch and know where to land it. 

“When you get into that mindset, you pick the club out of the bag and know where it’s going rather than standing over it, wiggling and overthinking about it.”

Practice is one of the key ways to improve your game but another is getting lessons from a club professional and David is a great advocate for both.

David Middleton, playing at Muirfield March 2022

“For me the significant drop happened when I had the lesson as it gave me the foundations, but playing and practicing is really what pulled my handicap down. 

“Personally, I like to see by doing, I like to feel the improvements physically. 

“For me, if I was to put a guide out there, I would go with lessons, 100%. Hands on and plenty time spent. 

“You really can’t beat having the club in your hands, whether that be practicing chipping, putting, ball striking with your irons or driving the ball.”

Online golf content creator, Josh Oddy added that the key is, “Short game! Short game! Short game!”

This is an area in which most people struggle with or neglect despite being arguably the most important part of the game.

Despite being a high-quality player himself with 43,000 Tiktok followers, Oddy doesn’t believe handicaps are all that important.

He said: “I don’t think people should be obsessed with handicap; I think you should just play golf because you enjoy it!”

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