BMW PGA Championship
Wentworth Golf Club, Virginia Water, Surrey, United Kingdom - England 24 May 2018 - 27 May 2018
Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Anthony Wall celebrates winning the tournament  (Getty Images)
Anthony Wall celebrates winning the tournament (Getty Images)

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As he bids a fond farewell to the European Tour after 23 years as a pro, retiring Anthony Wall writes this week’s Player Blog to explain his decision and look back on a brilliant career.

I couldn’t tell you when I actually realised it was time to retire but I admit, I have thought about it for nearly three years. It is a funny thing finishing the way I have done. It just feels like the right thing to me at this point. To be brutally honest, I feel old when I'm away on tournaments and I'm not old. I'm 42. You start feeling lesser of a person. And when you start to feel that way at your job, you need to change that. 

I also feel that my golf is nowhere near where I'd like it to be and for both of those reasons, it's just crept up on me. I watch a lot of sport and you hear a lot of other sporting athletes in football and rugby and it does creep up on you. There really wasn't a pivotal moment - I just think Sicily was a culmination of a number of weeks when you wake up and you feel it's time. My body is nowhere near where it was. My mind, thankfully, is as good as it’s ever been, I’ve been fortunate in that respect. For a lot of guys, you see their nerves go first. 

I talked with my wife Sharon on the phone on Wednesday night for three hours after the pro-am in Sicily. I was feeling pretty sore. I said to Sharon, “Maybe it's time.” We've had this conversation on a number of occasions over the years. It was a very difficult decision. I love golf, I love traveling, I love playing but my body is just telling me to stop. But 500 events is a lot of golf and there have only been a few who have done it. It's not like I've got a bad back, I've just used it a lot.

The decision has been made purely on how I feel. I can't play three days with my children or at my golf club without struggling. Every day I wake up it feels different. Every day I wake up I've got something else that is not feeling quite right. Every day. And it has been like that probably for five years. It just takes its toll and in the end you say you know what, that will do me. Honestly, that is how I feel.

The tipping point was the weekend before Sicily. I had had a week off and worked really hard on my body and played a little golf with my two children. I wasn’t particularly happy with how I performed in front of the kids and I found myself not enjoying hitting a golf ball. For the first time ever, almost. I woke up on the Monday and Tuesday after that and my body just felt like it didn’t want to do it anymore. I had had two weeks off and in my mind I was ready to go yet my body wasn’t willing. 

I was a bit miserable and I just thought I don't want to feel like that anymore because I love the game. I love my memories and I want to keep them. I don't want to go the way that others have over the years, where they start to disappoint themselves and how they play and how they feel and also how they conduct themselves. 

It's funny I have been doing quite a lot of strength work so I've improved how my back has been performing but it's allowed me to carry when my back shouldn’t. Before, it would spasm up and I'd have to withdraw but now it is tight and tired. I might still able to play but for me, it is playing poorly.

I have one reconstructed hip and another that is well on its way, probably a lot worse than the one I had operated on five years ago. My back, too. Everyone has problems. That's the thing with sport, everyone has something, everyone is taking something for something to help, anti-inflammatories or whatever else so I'm no different to everybody else. Put in the 500 events and whatever else in there it makes it harder to perform. It will be interesting to see in the next 20 years how things go because they're working harder, hitting it harder and travelling further. What toll will that have?

Realistically I think I could have taken a medical. I've done it once and I think that's all you should be allowed. I've had my shot which prolonged my career by three more years - I've had one really good season in those three years and I felt it was really hard to come back the first time and I was only 38 or 39. I felt if I did anything like that it would be to improve my life going forward and not so much for the golf. I honestly feel I've done everything. I've had injections in my back that put me to sleep, I've had countless injections into my hips and I've done an awful lot to get to that point. It wasn't even an option - those days for me have gone really.

But what a ride it has been. I remember carrying the board at Wentworth as a junior. When a Tour pro acknowledged your existence it made your day. That's the thing with Twitter. Everybody comments yet I haven't had one negative comment and when it's all over like it is now it means a lot. I remember that feeling. Just someone looking at you and saying ‘morning’. You're walking with them carrying a board for five hours. I remembered that feeling of someone recognising you. There was nothing better. That's all I did growing up, I loved golf. I remember playing golf outside my house on a tiny bit of grass. Just having the opportunity to be like that on such a big stage. It was a thrill to be true to yourself. 

I would like to stay in the game. I would like to help kids, I would like to help my own children. I don't know where it will take me but I enjoy the discipline of golf and the challenge of how it makes you feel.  

There will be a lot to miss about professional golf and the European Tour. Who doesn't like being applauded for doing something well in life? I will miss my friends in professional golf, those who work on the Tour or play on the Tour whom I've met following me through the years. I'll miss that as much as the traveling side and enjoying the world but probably most of all I’ll miss the competitiveness. I love working hard. I think that’s been part of the problem – not being able to work hard because of injury and then going to tournaments and being judged on 40 per cent of my ability.

People say, “Why don't you play Wentworth?” The money is good but I'd be too emotional to play it. I wouldn't be able to concentrate. I wanted it all to be on my terms. I've watched good friends of mine who have finished not on their terms which I think is sad. You build up all those good years and give them back. I'm not playing for the money, for me I just feel like it's time to finish and hold my head up high. I've done something different, not many have done what I've done. There's a couple but for me, it's the right way to go. 

I want to pay the Tour the respect I think it deserves. It's been such an amazing job. It's quite frightening what we get and what we do. We travel the world to hit a golf ball and people come and watch you and pay to watch you. It's bizarre. It's unbelievable. 

There will be some bits I won’t miss, though. It’s the extremes of Tour and home life. At home, it’s always rush, rush, rush. You have one day off, ten jobs to do and you can’t concentrate on any of them because you're rushing and your mind is scrambled. But when you’re away, it’s all the hanging around. Being away and apart from golf, just doing nothing. Two of the polar opposites but both the same in that you feel that you're not in control. I think most golfers are control freaks. For me wasting time when you're away and not having enough when you're home - it's bizarre. I'm not going to miss that side of things as you're not in control of it. 

I had a lot of great times and a lot of lovely low rounds and special rounds in my career. I had a lovely finish at the European Open at the K Club in the year that Monty won in 2007. I remember shooting a really good score at the Alfred Dunhill when I had just started, playing with Nick Faldo and I shot 65. I won it the year before and it gave me such great satisfaction because I started to be able to do it when it mattered. Even the Trophée Lancôme in 1998 playing with Nick Faldo, who at that time was the Daddy, shooting 67 on the Saturday and I kept my card the next day playing with O'Meara and Duval. I was very lucky to play in those groups and survive it. A lot of guys would've struggled.

Then you go back to The Open at St Andrews in 2015. To play so well on the Sunday to finish 12th, almost having a chance to win. If I played that back nine in three under instead of level I could have given myself half a chance but instead, the weather was horrible but then brightened up. It was the most amazing feeling to be in the last five or ten groups and actually feel like you're in the meat of it. Those sort of memories are golden. There were lots of good golfing rounds but often it's the occasion that made the difference. 

And it’s not always the hole-outs and the hole-in-ones that are most special either. I had a five-foot putt on 16 when I beat Alex Noren at Archerfield a couple of years ago in the final of the Paul Lawrie Match Play. I was one-up and he got up and down out of a ball washer on the back of 16. I drove to the front of the green. He hit it through in two and had to get up and down and it was looking like I was going two-up with two to play but he somehow got up and down. I've got five feet for par, one up. I never even batted an eye-lid, knocking it straight in. Those are the shots you remember. Its funny shots are one thing but putts are another. I remember finishing second to Soren Kjeldsen. I had a five-footer for second. It's the first time I've mentioned money but it was huge. I had two small children, money was an issue. I looked across at the board and he was winning by a shot and raced it by to try to tie and missed it. I had a smelly one back for second to avoid a logjam. So you knew it was the Volvo Masters and for a lot of money. And I holed it. It's things like that that make the difference. Yes, you walk away thinking you could've hit driver, irons better but it is the putting that shows how you're feeling inside. That is why I have always prided myself on not shying away from things. Yes, I could have won a few more but I grew up in an era with colossi like Woosnam and Monty and Harrington, who would win six a year and your chances would be limited.

The week I asked my wife to marry me was a memorable one, and not just for the engagement. It was Fota Island in Ireland and I had proposed on the Friday night. I was leading the tournament by one at the halfway stage so everything was going brilliantly. I played with Monty on the Saturday and he shot 65 with his longest par putt being about a foot. I played with Darren Clarke on the Sunday and he shot 66 and didn’t even have a par putt! It was such a lesson. There was me with my great news on the engagement, leading the golf tournament and that means nothing. You got out at the weekend and get your pants taken down by two legends. It was unbelievable!

If I had to give myself a mark out of ten for my career I would say a ten for effort and a seven overall. That ten would be because I have always practiced so hard. I would be the first one on the golf course on Tuesday mornings. I had the enthusiasm, I just loved it. But a seven overall. I probably should have won two or three more. But I lived in an era where the first time I looked at a video camera was when I won my first pro tournament on the mini tour when I was 20, so you were flying by the seat of your pants a little bit growing up as you didn't have the technology you do now. Within six years it moved on so much to a point where you were playing against guys who had everything. You were limited a little bit in that regard which makes grading myself difficult as it was such a funny era with the game changing so much in six years. The ball and equipment game changed rapidly. All of a sudden my long iron game was almost irrelevant with hybrids coming out and other tech. I use to back that up with my work ethic and hit balls all day. It’s probably why I have my injuries now but I used to love the sense of satisfaction that I tried and practiced as much as anyone I have ever met. So I back my ten for effort knowing that I couldn't have tried any harder. 

Now it’s time for a new chapter. I don't want to take too much time off, I don't want to miss my opening in life, whatever that might be. I don't know really what I’m going to do at this stage but I would love to stay in golf in some capacity. I feel I have a lot of knowledge and experience that could be used somewhere. But until you try everything, who knows. I would love to try television in some form. Whenever I've done some in the past I've really enjoyed it they're always giving me good reviews on it so that would be something I would be interested in looking at. Then again, I'm so inexperienced in that regard I don't know if I have what it takes. Do I want to coach? I think there is need for coaches who have been there and done it. Just because you have played doesn't been you can coach, a bit like TV in that sense. 

So who knows? For now I'm quite happy watching my kids play cricket on a Wednesday and Saturday. I will need to do something. I'll take the break this summer and keep an eye on my friends’ progress and see where I go from there. I don't know what I'll do but I hope it is in sport. Even if I moved to the other side of the world I would probably gravitate to sport as I don't know what else I can do - that's all I know. 

One thing is for sure – I’ll still play golf. I have two kids that love playing, both keen golfers. Patrick and Nicholas 13 and 14, both 12 handicaps and doing really well. I'm not a pushy father so I just let them play and be. It was funny, I walked around with Patrick on Sunday in a competition at Sunningdale Ladies. It was the first time I walked all 18 holes in competition with him because he asked me to. He was feeling a bit down after my news and he shot 40 points and won the event. Clearly, he has lots of talent and it was lovely to be there and not worry, not look at my watch and think I have to get home and pack and go away tomorrow. I could just wander. I don't know what life is meant to be but after 22 years not being able to that, it was actually nice to know that I could do this for a while.

It’s been a thrill. That's probably what people miss isn't it? The excitement you can have out of nowhere. You can be having an ordinary week and all of a sudden you shoot 65 on a Saturday and you're on top of the leaderboard. It's the pure excitement in golf or in sport terms to do something amazing that day or that week. 

In all honesty, I wouldn't do anything differently and I don’t have any regrets. It sounds silly. I tried my hardest. I would have liked to win more, try a few different coaches and tried a few other things but then again, I knew where I was and what I was doing so maybe that is the secret. I am just a normal working class, son of a taxi driver and I've done quite well. The grass was never greener with me. I was never looking for anything else. I just made sure I was getting better at what I was doing rather than trying to reconstruct everything. I always knew what I was and what I had and never veered far from that. So, to me, that means the buzz was always there. The buzz of performing. The buzz of being able to do something great in professional sport. There isn't anything better. I will miss it. 


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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MOLINARI, FrancescoITA18-17
2MCILROY, RoryNIR18-15
T3NOREN, AlexSWE18-14
T5GRACE, BrandenRSA18-13

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