By Chris Wallace
Something you didn’t know about ABBA’s Frida Lyngstad: she’s a pretty good golfer. One of the sixty or so female golf pros who flew into town for this weekend’s ActewAGL Royal Canberra Ladies Classic relayed this from first hand experience while giving a local golf newbie a lesson mid-week.
A big ABBA fan, the golf pro was stunned at a pro-am in Sweden a few years ago when Frida turned out to be one of the three people playing in her group. Frida’s handicap turns out to be a handy 17. Which was her favourite ABBA song, she asked the pro, who replied somewhat sheepishly “Dancing Queen”. Don’t worry, it was her favourite too, Frida said, adding it was despite the fact that it one of the most difficult in the ABBA repertoire to sing. When her game hit a rough patch during the pro-am, Frida threatened to start singing – not an obvious swing fix but as good as any most people try when things get tough on course.
Teeing off on one hole the pro noticed Frida standing directly opposite. “That’s a beautiful thing,” she said of the pro’s swing. How great that Frida was alert to beauty where she found it, not just where where people expect it to be.
Golf has an image problem. Unless you play it or watch it already, a jumble of fusty images probably come to mind: plus fours and tam o’shanter caps, the old golfing crocks of PG Wodehouse short stories, perhaps Kevin Costner in Tin Cup.
But if you go out to Yarralumla today and check out the Classic, there’ll be few if any fusty old cardigan-wearers in sight. Instead you’ll see what golf really looks like today, at least on the women’s tour: a group of fit, go getting (mostly) young athletes competing intensely for a nice big prize cheque come Sunday afternoon. Eight of Australia’s top ten women golfers are playing along with fourteen internationals and a swag of hopefuls.
And their swings are something of great beauty in the same way that a big, beautiful flowing Lauren Jackson basket is, likewise an elegant, expressive Henri Matisse line. As Matisse said of drawing, it’s “above all a means of expressing intimate feelings and moods”. So it is with lines drawn with the movement of bodies in sport, the curves of a golf ball in flight or a basketball flying through air. The “intimate feelings and moods” Matisse refers to are just as evident in sport as in art if you’re open to seeing them.
ABBA’s Frida evidently is. She and her late third husband, architect Heinrich Ruzzo (incidentally Prince Reuss, Count of Plauen) both were. Ruzzo built two courses on their properties in Sweden and Switzerland. That’s taking it a tad far, perhaps, but no-one can accuse them of not getting golf.
At the end of that pro-am in Sweden, Frida signed the Australian golf pro’s glove and said a friendly goodbye. The story made me feel bad. The first part-time job I ever had was in a record store just as ABBA was making it big. I was into Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Yes, Eric Clapton and Frank Zappa and as fast as I could get their albums onto the turntable, the proprietor was taking them off, putting on ABBA which was selling like hotcakes instead. I looked down on ABBA with their apparently ridiculous jumpsuits, sparkles and unabashed pop music. I looked down on disco too, for much the same reasons.
I had failed the test of being open to beauty – and anything done to a high enough level of excellence does have it’s own beauty. Truth was, unlike Frida, I was a snob. It wasn’t until ABBA and disco was reborn through Priscilla, Queen of the Desert did I open my ears. Of course, ABBA were good. They were great. Their songs are perfect pop peaks, one after another. Happily, it’s never too late to recant, to improve, to be open to beauty and achievement wherever it lies in the way Frida was as she stood opposite that Aussie golf pro (Shani Waugh, but you’ll never get me to disclose her identity) and pronounced on her swing’s beauty.
Go out to Royal this weekend and take in what may be for you and your family a new kind of beauty. Hell, pick up a club, go to your local course afterwards and have a hit. Everyone starts as a hacker but, as with everything else in life, you have to start somewhere. If it’s good enough for Frida, it’s good enough for us too.
This first appeared in the Canberra Times, 21 January 2012