Few public figures fascinate fans more than the multi-sport athlete. Stars from Bo Jackson to Deion Sanders excite the imagination with memories of their near-supernatural talents that couldn’t be contained by just one game.
Sometimes, though, the attempt to play multiple sports goes all “Michael Jordan tries baseball.” It is with this in mind that I write the following sentence:
Tom Daley tried to play golf last week.
For his first extended venture out of the house since going into lockdown, Daley took a break from parenting and filming workout videos to join synchro partner Matty Lee at a London driving range. While there, his performance with a golf club combined the slapstick of Caddyshack with the competence of Caddyshack II.
In a vlog about the afternoon, Daley estimated that he hadn’t swung a golf club since 2008 and promised, “It’s gonna be fun!” And with the Olympic diver fully embracing his lack of experience and skill, it was.
After Lee established his bona fides with a couple of drives, it was Daley’s turn. Following a couple of tenuous warm ups (during which he had to be reminded “Don’t let go of the club!”), Daley stepped up to address the ball, took his stance, uncoiled a vicious swing, and…
So he tried again. Swing and miss. Twice. Three times. His fourth swing managed a foul tip. His fifth swing again came up nothing but air. Is it a bad sign when you’re officially over par before making contact with the ball?
For Tom Daley — who, it should be emphasized, is an Olympic medalist and World Champion — attempting to hit a golf ball sitting motionless on a mat was the equivalent of standing in the batter’s box against a 98 MPH fastball. In fact, Daley’s golf mat generated more swings and misses than anyone currently in the Cubs bullpen.
And you know what? It was great. The video was such a pleasure to watch because the two synchro partners were clearly having fun with it and enjoying each other’s company after months of isolation, especially when Daley took a looping swing at the ball and a second later, Lee had to remind him, “It’s still there, mate…”
After a bit, Daley figured out how to consistently hit the ball and even managed to hold his own in a driving range game of 21. It was a reminder that sports are hard—even for the literally best athletes in the world — and sometimes they’re the most joyful when everyone just embraces their difficulty and goes for it with gusto.
Besides, if Daley wants to practice his golf game, there will be plenty of driving ranges to explore next year in Tokyo.