Dog Debate – Should There Be More Dog-Friendly Classes?

Arriving at another DP World Tour event, Sky Sports Golf commentator Iona Stephen is likely to make the driving range her first stop. In 2020, as she was just getting started in the world of television, she probably would have gauged the moods of different actors and wondered how she should start the necessary conversations. Today, it happens a little less often; many professionals just have to see her coming to interrupt their training sessions and ask after her dogs.

Over the past few weeks, they probably would have kept asking for an update on how Iona and her two Labrador puppies, Dealas and Las, fared during the “dog on course” trial taking place on the Queen’s course and the Wee course. in Gleneagles by the end of the year.

Dog-friendly golf course

Iona Stephen with her puppies Dealas and Las at Gleneagles

(Image credit: Iona Stephen)

Andrew Jowett, the five-star resort’s golf manager, said he was unable to comment on the specific behavior of the dogs before acknowledging initial feedback had been “relatively good…So far, all dogs met the required golf etiquette”. (Their numbers would have included Dealas and Las who, in their owner’s opinion, did decidedly well-behaved for a pair of pups who must have seen golf as a painfully slow version of the crazy ball-chasing games they had. known during their first nine months. )

Iona, by the way, campaigned for more dogs in golf on the grounds that dogs and golfers have equal fun on a golf course. Meanwhile, the anti-dog faction, who will have a say in what happens in Gleneagles, will tell you that there are enough dangers in the game without stepping on dog feces. Where both parties agree is to believe that dogs should be leashed.

Following her experience at Gleneagles, Iona took Dealas and Las to St Andrews for Sunday’s Dunhill Links Championship. There she met the dogs of Eddie Pepperell whose etiquette on the course was in a class by itself. Not only did they go through the links with one of Pepperell’s friends, but they watched their master’s every move. All of which made you think that Pepperell and his playmates had suddenly found their viewers switching to a group of high scores, those loyal dogs would probably have stayed put.

“The good thing about having a dog or dogs,” Iona said, “is that they don’t care how you played or, for that matter, whether your last interview with a player went well or badly. They’re happy to see you no matter what, and it’s easy to see why caregivers take them to hospitals and nursing homes as a source of therapy.

There have always been dogs in Iona’s family and her father’s Labrador, Ghilly (mother of Dealas and Las), was said to have been a great source of comfort for Iona when, in 2019, she was an unhappy figure sitting in a Sainsbury’s car park and wondering what she should do with her life. Wrist injuries had ended her playing aspirations and, although a series of steroid injections helped her through it at first, “a horribly intrusive operation” proved to be a waste of time. total time.

Dog-friendly golf courses

(Image credit: Iona Stephen)

By means of a final roll of the dice, she traveled to the United States to investigate the possibility of a stem cell procedure, only to have it ruled out when an update in her diagnosis told her. deeply shaken. She had developed stage 4 osteoarthritis, and it was all because she had had too many of those early steroid injections. “I’m happy to share my story because I would hate for other golfers to make the same mistakes I did,” she said at the time.

As cars drove back and forth through this dark supermarket, Iona launched into a rambling, albeit automatic, scroll through her emails. Although she wasn’t expecting anything interesting, there was a message to interrupt her sobs. It was from IMG’s London headquarters and indicated that they were looking for a presenter for an anonymous golf show. “I didn’t have much hope,” she said, “but I did a decent interview and a fortnight later I got this phone call asking if I wanted to be a presenter for Golfing World at the WGC event in Mexico.”

To borrow from the R&A slogan used at this year’s Open, ‘It all led up to this’, Iona’s golf dip has been replaced by an all-encompassing television career in which she is entrusted with everything , from commentary to presentation, interviewing players on and off the course and having his own blog, “On the Road with Iona”. She’s done her duty at one major event after another, though her love of dogs is such that you get the feeling she’d at some point wish she had a shot at Crufts.

Dog-friendly golf courses

Many pros interrupt their training session to ask about Iona’s dogs

(Image credit: Iona Stephen)

Curiously, she sees “dog qualities” in many top golfers, with “mood consistency” high on her list of qualities that matter most to dogs and golfers. Of the women, Iona called Dame Laura Davies “one of the most consistent people I have ever met”. Then came Lydia Ko, “a beautiful calm person”, with this young star followed almost in the same breath by the sisters Korda, Jessica and Nelly: “They are both solid, personality-wise. What you see is what you get.”

Moving on to the men, Dunhill winner Ryan Fox was mentioned early, as were Victor Hovland, George Coetzee and Jon Rahm. Yes, Iona appreciated that Rahm could be a bit feisty at times, but she still considers him a good man through and through. Then she mentioned Collin Morikawa in tones to suggest his name should have stumbled from her lips at first.

The 2021 Open champion and his partner, Katherine Zhu, have what they call a Golden Doodle by the name of Koa who posed with the Claret Jug. By the way, Morikawa and Zhu have been involved at various times in the dog adoption process by helping dog adoption agencies sort out suitable owners via Zoom calls.

When I asked if Iona had overlooked Shane Lowry who, in my book, would seem to have all the characteristics of a much-loved and friendly dog, she gave a few “uhs” and “ahs” before deciding how best to put her to bed. Answer. Once ready, she conceded that although Lowry had been everything I had suggested, he had lost a few points in “coherence of mood.”

But there was a way around this problem. On the grounds that her caddie, Bo, ticked each of her boxes, the 2019 Open winner received special dispensation.