James Corrigan: Honest Howell is way ahead of blog standard

Where would we be without knowing which dance-track Rio is listening to while at the jeweller's?

There was a period in the history of mankind, some time between the dotcom bubble and the advent of Twitter, when every sporting personality worthy of their marketing coterie was entering the blogosphere.

Here was their chance to bypass that evil race of trolls known as journalists and tell the public what the personalities, themselves, wanted them to hear. It promised to be PR heaven, a land where the platitudes would roam free, where the positives would spring forth from the luscious fields of idealised images, bordered by lucrative sponsors' endorsements.

And the negativity, all the off-field antics, all the mercenary transfer dealings, indeed anything private at all? Well, what right has the sporting fan to know any of this and how could it possibly benefit the sporting celebrity by revealing any of this? No, the insight would remain controlled, the interesting titbits would have all the flavour of the canapés at the Vegan Ball.

Alas, the nature of these blogs contained the seeds of their own destruction. "You can tell a person's personality from the words they use," so said Tal Yarkoni, a psychologist who completed exhaustive research into blogs. But what can you tell from the words their media manager uses? Absolutely nothing. Every sporting celebrity came across as boring, dull and corporate.

Thus, nobody read the blogs and those that did were instantly put off genuinely interesting people such as, erm, Jonny Wilkinson. So off the sporting celebrities trotted to a new Promised Land called Twitterdom. There they could dash off endless reams of guff and dress this up as a wonderful connection with the supporters. Where would be without knowing which dance-track Rio Ferdinand is listening to while he waits at the jeweller's?

At least one sportsman did not join the exodus to 140 characters. The golfer David Howell took to blogging like a duckhook to water. He penned his blogs himself, relegating his PR man to the role of sub-editor, but with the edict that he only insert the commas, unsplit the infinitives and on no account apply the Tippex treatment. With a collection of witty missives, crammed with self-deprecation and anecdotes, it was a genuine portal to the life of a professional golfer. And as the Swindon swinger – to use a nickname which, other than in certain cul-de-sacs in Haydon Wick, never quite caught on – rose to the heights of world No 7, his readers could ride the emotions of his glory. Think Tiger Woods, but as a human being.

It didn't last long. Howell embarked on one of those nose-pinching slumps which only golf seems to produce. Within a year he was out of the world's top 100 and, within another couple, out of the world's top 300. Inevitably the blogs dried up, for as Howell, himself, pointed out "there's only so many ways you can describe 'teed off Thursday, went home Friday'." But when they did arrive in our inbox they were gems.

Take this entry from the Dubai Desert Classic, where his long-suffering caddie pleaded with him not to take on a shot over water on the final hole. "He stood in front of the ball for two minutes, telling me not to waste a shot," recalled Howell. "Saying I cannot reach is like a red rag to a bull. So I pulled out the three wood, told him in no uncertain terms to get out of my way, hit the thing as hard as I could and watched in delight as it landed 36 inches over the water and trickled to within 30 feet of the pin.

"I then gently threw the three-wood 15 yards back down the fairway so he would have to fetch it as punishment. Sometimes you have to remember this is just a game, it's supposed to be fun and sometimes, even though the odds are against you, the challenge just has to be taken on."

The challenge hasn't gotten much easier for Howell in golfing terms. Yesterday he was down the pack at the Portuguese Masters, earning the few euros he needed to retain his European Tour playing privileges. Yet, a few things have altered in his life, a few things which will affect him for ever, and last week in the finest blog of his or any other sportsmen's career, Howell described these life-changers with beautiful poignancy.

First came the usual pops at his faltering game, and luck, as his caddie left him "for an older man" – Darren Clarke a couple of weeks before he won the Open.

And then followed this bombshell. "Sally Pearce, my wonderful thoughtful caring mother passed away. Having had pancreatic cancer for two years she finally lost her battle quicker than any of us imagined. Like all families, ours will never be the same.

"It's hard to move on from that last paragraph with anything positive, but that is exactly how life is sometimes and you have to try to find good things to focus on. My mum herself was adamant about that. The last words I was able to say to my Mum were that Emily and I are due to be parents..."

I urge you to read the entire blog at www.davidhowellgolf.com. It will make you laugh, cry and ponder. It is a uniquely honest account and will remain so. If there were more of his ilk, sport would provide an infinitely more pleasurable spectacle.

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits