My Life by Peter Alliss

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My Life by Peter Alliss

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A poorly-written, unentertaining autobiography which leaves you thinking less of the man than before you started.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 320 Date: June 2005
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Paperbacks
ISBN: 0340834005

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I'm not a golfer but I quite often watch golf on television and I've generally enjoyed the commentaries by Peter Alliss. They always seemed more like a chat amongst friends with the occasional irreverence thrown in. When I picked up his autobiography I expected an enjoyable, enlightening read.

How wrong can you be?

These days Alliss is best known as a golf commentator both in the UK and the USA, but he came to commentating after a career as a Club, then tournament professional and eventually on the international circuit, representing his country in the Ryder cup several times. After his international career began to fade he became the club professional at Moor Allerton, near Leeds and left there ten years later when his broadcasting commitments became too much for him to continue.

In most cases I regard the fact that a ghost writer has not been used as a positive plus. There's always a book that proves the opposite point of view, though. Mr Alliss cannot write in such a way as to keep the reader awake. He gives us long paragraphs with a straight recitation of facts. I nearly lost the will to live in the chapter on his Ryder Cup career. I doubt that I have ever been so bored by a book. At one point I wondered if I would bother to finish it.

There's an obsession with money, even from an early age. Just about every member of various Clubs seemed to be mentioned by name, along with how much money they gave him. I tired of having prize money from the days when he was playing competitively compared to the prize money which today's top golfers receive. When, for the second time a business venture failed because his partners felt that they were not getting a fair share of the profits I wanted to ask if he'd not got the message? He might have been the "meeter and greeter", but it seems his partners were not as impressed as the clients were expected to be.

Along with the obsession with money (what interest should it be of his how much Terry Wogan's daughter's wedding might have cost?) is a concentration on the trappings of what he did - the first class air travel noted along with the fact that accommodation was provided free of charge. It left me with the feeling of a man who is not quite used to it, but can't stop flaunting it.

There's a grating sound of old scores being settled, with the usual trick being to say that he's not one to criticise, but... There was the man who was excellent 98% of the time, but was too slow to praise and too quick to criticise. In other words he was no good at all. I lost count of the number of occasions when this trick was used.

Alliss is patronising. Let me give you an example:

Beverley Lewis is our lady on the fairways and I have a high regard for her skills. At the time of writing she's vice captain of the Professional Golfers' Association and will be captain in 2005, the first woman to achieve that post and a great honour. It surely cannot be easy going into decidedly male bastions, making dozens of speeches. In her position it would be very easy to upset someone or for someone to upset her; there are plenty of silly people about who could well patronise her, perhaps unintentionally.

I think you just managed it, Peter.

Do you know what annoyed me most of all, though? Well, the book jacket says that he "talks movingly about the loss of his young daughter Victoria". Victoria was born brain-damaged and her life expectancy was given as eight years. "In the event", says Alliss "she lived to be eleven." Later he says that "I couldn't bring myself to visit Victoria." Finally it's "...I found myself thinking, it would be better for all of us if Victoria just slipped away." That's moving? No - it's self-pity.

From thinking of him as the person who chatted you through a round of golf in a friendly fashion I've come to think of him as the Club bore who always seems to trap you in the corner to complain about Inheritance Tax or the fact that his wife should have been given another series of her television cookery programmes, but who is never at fault in what he does.

If you must read it - why I might ask? - borrow it from the library. Don't buy it as I can't imagine that you'd ever want to reread it. If you really want a golfing autobiography then you could do far worse than read Colin Montgomerie where you will at least learn something about the man.

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jillhinnrichs said:

Well he sounds dreadful so that's definitely put me off wanting to read this book. Shame as he always sounded so nice on the telly.

John W said:

Peter Allis is a known exponent of the grand art of sarcasm. He once growled, during a TV broadcast commentary, that this chap I met would not even know how to put a club back in the bag properly. I was so golf-naïve at the time I began practising sliding clubs back into the bag!

John W., Australia

Matt Lucas said:

It would be a great tragedy for someone to read Ms. Magee's review and make a purchase decision based on such an ill-informed commentary. You need not read her review long to discover the first clue you are about to to be misled. "I'm not a golfer" followed by paragraphs betraying a complete lack of perspective about the game and those who, like Mr. Aliss, devote their lives to its pursuit.

Sadly, Ms. Magee also failed to recognize that Mr. Aliss, as a product of of a war generation, came to his success honestly and naively during a time when his country's continued existence was far from guaranteed. When he speaks of money, it is with fascination that there are those who would pay him or others to play a game or to offer a few well-timed comments or observations during a telecast. He speaks of money like many of his generation who succeed despite the challenges of their early lives. He shares his experiences and perspective (thats the point of a good autobiography) as a humble, thankful man who, approaching his twilight years, has much to appreciate. He writes not to inflate your perception of him or to create a false sense of importance. He has nothing to lose so you are getting the straight, unvarnished truth, much like you would if you had the pleasure of sharing a pint or two with Mr. Alias after a round. Peter Aliss is to golf as Vin Scully is to baseball. He is known as the voice of golf and represents a link to a more honorable tradition in sport than what we see with the profession today.

How many of us can imagine the challenge of raising a severely brain damaged daughter, much less the loss of a child. Readers should know Mr. Aliss for years has supported a charity that has raised millions for disabled children so that they can afford proper wheelchairs and equipment.

If you know little of the game or of Mr. Aliss significance to the sport over the past 40 years, you might still enjoy his story. Better would be to have a least and inkling about the true character of the man before opening page one. His life is a good read and an interesting story.

Matt Lucas California, USA