It is a father's ultimate nightmare: getting his child a work placement in his office and them making an utter fool of themselves. For Bernhard Langer the embarrassment was even more acute at the Dutch Open yesterday as Stefan, his 17 year-old son, had one of the worst rounds in the history of professional-level tournament golf.
Usually, it is only the Sunday morning hacker who sweats over a 35-footer on the 18th, knowing that he has to get down in two putts to break the dreaded 100 barrier. Fortunately for all concerned, including the red-faced parent watching from behind the final green in Zandvoort, Langer Jnr managed to hole out for his par - but he had still recorded a 98, which equalled the second-highest ever on the European Tour.
Indeed, if Mark James had withdrawn with illness from the 1978 Italian Open and not stubbornly played on to fire 111, the Langer family would have a rather unfortunate record to go alongside the two Masters titles won by Bernhard, the finest player Germany has produced and one of the game's most widely respected figures.
Perhaps the old man should carry the flag alone from now on as despite having an operation a month ago to remove kidney stones, the 49-year-old managed to shoot a three-under par 67 yesterday. That was some 31 better than his heir who, on 28-over par, was 19 shots behind his nearest rival and 34 off the leader, Japan's Taichi Teshima.
Afterwards, Langer Snr confessed he had been fearing the calamity as Stefan has recently been working with his coach on a new swing. "I was afraid it might happen," he said. "I knew he was not playing well the past few weeks or months. He is trying to make some changes but if you hit it sideways here, you're going to lose some balls."
That is exactly what came to pass on his son's 11th hole when he twice drove out-of-bounds, hit another that he found, but alas in an unplayable lie, meaning that he had to go back to the tee for a fourth time. He ended up with a 12, seven shots more than the hole's par of five. In fact, he only had four pars all day, posting seven bogeys, four double bogeys, two treble bogeys, as well as that "septuple".
Commendably, Stefan is determined to do as his father advises, "to go back for the second round, try to enjoy it and keep working on his game". "It was discouraging," said Stefan, with what sounded suspiciously like teutonic understatement. "Tomorrow's going to be a challenge so I'm going to go away and work on some things. I got an invitation to play and thought it would be better than walking outside the ropes."
But not everyone would agree. There was much muttering on the driving ranges about his inclusion in this select field battling for a prize fund of more than £1m, with more than one professional pointing out that on his CV only the surname stands out. Stefan does play off a highly accomplished handicap of plus-one, but is used to competing on the junior tours of Germany and Florida, where his family have a home. He is by no means a celebrated amateur with his most notable triumphs coming in a few "dad-and-son" events.
It is therefore fair to suggest that the sponsor's invitation he received had something to do with the identity of his father. But he is not the first big name to take up what bitter journeymen pros label "a worker's berth". Recently, Michelle Wie has become renowned for failing spectacularly when thrust into male company, while two years ago the former tennis world No 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov fared almost as badly as Stefan when slicing his way to a 96 in the Russian Open.Reuse content