The possession of a good nickname may not be aprerequisite for golfing immortality, but it certainly helps to build up an aura.
Jack Nicklaus, of course, was known as ‘The Golden Bear’ during his three decade-long prowl for championships, and most other greats have had a catchy label foisted upon them at some time or another. Arnold Palmer was ‘The King’, Ben Hogan variously ‘The Hawk’ and ‘The Ice Man’, while Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods has been wiping the floor over rivals such as Phil ‘Lefty’ Mickelson and Ernie ‘The Big Easy’ Els.
Unlike these luminaries I have never previously had an alter-ego during a long and not very illustrious career – apart, perhaps, from when the name ‘Psycho’ stuck after a particularly unedifying temper tantrum in a pot- bunker at North Berwick’s 16th hole.
So I was more than a little suspicious when my playing partner Phua started calling me ‘Sultan’ midway through our round at the fabulous course at the Royal Brunei Golf and Country Club.
I hadn’t been playing badly, but neither had my shotmaking been good enough to stand any kind of regal comparison. Perhaps he was cleverly forming a golfing analogy along the lines of the old Dire Straits chestnut, Sultans of Swing? After all, the only reason my game was in any kind of shape was due to the number of lucky assists I had been getting from compliant jungle branches.