It’s July 2010 and I find myself in a warm Sweden proudly representing England alongside five team-mates who would unknowingly provide me with my lasting memory of amateur golf. It is day one, which means we are only just beginning what is known as a long and tormenting week. Three balls are the order of the day and one of my partners I remember well but the other has since departed my memory. This says more about the one who remains. A man with a global reputation within the amateur game, although not just because of his celestial talent but also his wildly unpredictable temperament. Already he strikes me as the most French looking man I have ever seen. He has a charm only I can envy. And whilst others look away in horror or worse look down with disdain when he is very obviously unhappy with himself my fascination and respect grows. The most talented player I’ve seen, Victor Dubuisson.
I don’t know him too well and he seems like a person who doesn’t wish to be known too well. I know only a bit of his background and I hope it’ll come out in the wash soon as from what I remember it isn’t entirely normal. When I see Victor doing what he’s doing now I think it was only a matter of time.
We’re on the 17th hole on day two of the European Team Championships and France are precariously close to not qualifying for the top bracket of matchplay. It’s a par 3 over water, a 6 iron. The French are relying on their talisman, Victor, to bring them home. Instead he hits his tee shot into the water. Head down. He takes a drop about 40 yards from the green and if my memory serves me correctly he may even hit that shot into the water. But my memory definitely serves me right when it comes down to his reaction. He launches the lob wedge into the ground and in a quite typically French manner, a bit like Pascal Sauvage in Jonny English, he jumps up and down stamping on his club yelling expletives in his native tongue. It was eye opening. The French never made it through. I remember Victor sat in a chair in the clubhouse afterwards with his colourful headphones on listening to his music. He had his head down, like a child who was aware of his bad behaviour and had been sent to the naughty step but I knew he sat there because he chose to. And he had this smirk on his face, this look as if to say, “Je ne suis pas unquiet”. A rare exception he is.
The great thing about it all however is here is a guy who, if raised in another country, would’ve been shot down for his unorthodox behaviour and apparent lack of empathy towards others but instead he was supported. I saw it. The French coaches and managers who, although at times I’m sure were slightly embarrassed, always seemed to comfort him, not give him a hard time and allow him space. And they were aware that over time with age and maturity he would develop skills to control his emotions and look how he has turned out. He is an extremely soft and nice guy on the outside and inside. You can see his shyness when interviewed and his awkwardness when he’s holed out and doesn’t know where to look. But as a performer he is driven and tenacious. He is an introvert who is obviously not overly fond of the hype but a lot of people are fond of him, me being one of them.