The first time I met Eddie Pepperell in person was the Tuesday of the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational. I was waiting for Bryson DeChambeau to finish his putting routine when Pepperell, still in the possession of relative anonymity, strolled past, heading for the locker room. I flagged him down for a few questions about spending time in the U.S. and playing the PGA Tour. He spoke softly, thoughtfully, wittily.
Before letting him go, I mentioned that Adam Scott had just joined Twitter, Pepperell’s vice of choice.
“Did he? Well, that’s good,” he said, deadpan. “But I’d rather you’d told me he’d joined Instagram — then I’d have had to sign up for that, too.”
In other words, I liked Eddie Pepperell from the start.
Nearly two years later, I tracked down Pepperell’s email address and asked him if he’d be willing to trade messages for a week or so. I figured we had plenty in common, each being 29-year-old golf bloggers with a weakness for chocolate who spend too much time on the internet.
He agreed. Here’s how the exchange went down.
Jan. 8, 2021
11:58 a.m., Seattle time
Eddie — thanks for agreeing to do this! Hopefully you’ll only mildly regret it.
Back when we conducted interviews in real life, I remember chatting with you at the Players Championship and you said something that stuck with me: “Ironically, I’m probably most known for the hangover [at the 2018 Open Championship] or my Twitter, which is everything I despise about life, really. I never wanted to be a social media guy or anything like that.”
There’s a lot in that, and we can get into the Twitter bit a couple emails from now. But I thought you raised an interesting point. I was lucky enough to follow your blog — fully operational for more than eight years! — before your viral hangover, and I’ve always thought that blog a far more complete picture of you than your Twitter account. Here are a couple mini excerpts from your very first entry, on Dec. 28, 2012:
“I am somebody who currently doesn’t like the conventional way of planning, and if I may also add, I seem to have acquired quite a nasty taste for convention itself.”
“I will also say that the blog entries themselves may come thick and fast, or not at all. That shouldn’t turn you off mind you, as I will predict my ‘thick ‘n’ fast’ blogs will contain more pragmatic ideas and approaches. And my ‘not-at-all’ blogs will contain, well, nothing.”
You also make mention of wanting to set your foam roller on fire.
This might seem like a particularly wandering introduction, but it serves a purpose, in my mind at least. Because before you were a semi-famous Twitter presence you were an aspiring pro spending free time blogging honestly about his journey to the big time — the excitement, the loneliness, the freedom, the monotony. And you actually stuck with it! Most of your peers wouldn’t have that same instinct.
It’s now the part of this email where I feel like I should ask you a question, to actually begin the conversation. So I first would wonder: How do you feel, thinking about the 21-year-old who started that blog? Do you think the way you see the world — golf and beyond — has changed much? And what do you miss from that era of life and career?
8:27 p.m., London time
Impressive that you went all the way back through my blog! I hate reading old stuff and generally never do.
Depressingly, reading through old posts will likely remind me of the vigour and keenness I once had, something which, as I’ve aged, I’ve come to feel less of. I actually think that’s a natural part of growing up and that you have to go out of your way to foster the same sense of endeavour that you have more naturally when you’re young and curious, which I was in 2012.
I think the sense of curiosity comes and goes in every person and also at different times in people’s lives. For some obviously it never comes, which I think is a real shame. But for me 2012 was the time when I really started to see the world in a different form. Having started reading not long before 2012 (!), I often felt hugely motivated by the comparisons I saw between myself and other successful sportspeople.
I don’t miss any part of my career from 2012. My life now (apart from not being able to leave home) is full of many more enjoyable things thanks to some of the success I’ve had.
I guess I’d describe going through my 20s in that entire period as largely a maturing process, a frustrating process professionally on the course, and the period that prepares me for me thirties, where I would hope to see much more consistency across all parts of my life.
Hope I haven’t rabbled on!
There’s likely some connection there, between you feeling keen and curious and you starting a blog, right? You’d be more likely to share your thoughts with the world when something has piqued your curiosity, and that curiosity will naturally ebb and flow over time. You haven’t posted since May, I noticed, which might correlate with you (and the rest of us) feeling generally down about the state of the world.
I want to further explore this idea that your 20s has been a frustrating process professionally. By any measure, you’ve experienced a ton of success. You’ve won multiple European Tour events, climbed to No. 32 in the world, played in the game’s very biggest events. I’m certainly not doubting that you’ve been frustrated — at that Players Championship, you snapped a five-iron and threw it into the water, and that was just during a practice round! But I’m wondering about the root of that frustration. Two options:
1. Are you frustrated because you were hoping for more career success?
Or 2. Are you frustrated because playing golf for a living is inherently maddening, especially when you’re not, say, Justin Thomas?
As a follow-up: Is there a point in your career to this point where you remember feeling the most frustrated? And is there another where you remember feeling the most content with your place in the game?
The frustration has largely been due to the overall inconsistency within that period. Yes, there have been short periods of really good stuff, but even they’ve often been bookended with periods of really poor form and even a sense, at times, of feeling lost with my game.
It’s frustrating because I know the best players in the world tend to have the best grasp on things, thereby ensuring greater consistency over time. Though I’m no DJ or Rory by any stretch, I do feel that when I play well I can compete at a very high level. But it’s when you lose your best form you need to have a robustness with your game that as yet I simply haven’t shown. That’s disappointed me most as I believe that part reflects intelligence more than anything. And there’s no excuse for not working things out!
In 2016 I felt completely lost with my game, especially off the tee. I’d go as far as to say I developed early yips with the driver. Thankfully I think I got out of the woods just in time, partly by technique, as well as a change of equipment. I also, and this is what I’m probably proudest of, utilised my 3-wood really effectively, which still enabled me to compete.
Yes, it would be great to turn a weakness into a great strength, but actually wisdom is sometimes allowing for your weaknesses to be present while working around them and all the while remaining somewhat effective. This didn’t happen immediately but pretty soon after losing my card I began to see the fruits of this labour. I believe this requires an individual to think outside what’s conventionally accepted (especially in the modern era), and be strong in their own mind and convictions.
At the end of 2017 I played the best tee-to-green golf of my career. To have achieved this less than 12 months after losing my Tour card really pleased me and I remember feeling extremely confident and satisfied with my levels of consistency. I finally didn’t need as much wine to send me to sleep at night… 🤪
Good, I was hoping we’d quickly get to wine, among your favorite topics for discussion — along with chocolate, dogs and Bryson DeChambeau.
Have you always loved wine? How has your consumption increased/decreased since March 2020? Do you know what you’re drinking, or are all bottles created equal? And have I got your list of favorite things right?
Haha! I haven’t always loved wine, I only started drinking it in 2015. In France they get it right by allowing (even encouraging) it at dinner when you’re very young! That way you don’t do what happened to me, and many others I suspect, where you discover it into your 20s and then abuse it! “Abuse” might be a bit strong to be honest in my case, but I would drink some wine most, if not every, night for lengthy periods during 2016 through 2019.
I love the variance in wine and how every bottle is different. My favourite is fairly standard: Bordeaux. I don’t like the high alcohol percentage wines anymore.
Wine, chocolate and Bryson are definitely three of my favourite things! 🙂 (Truthfully I have nothing against Bryson. He’s easy to take the piss out of but I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for him.)
I did enjoy your tweet that read, “With every drive Bryson hits, I see my impending barista job come closer.”
I know it’s a joke, but it did make me wonder about your perspective as a European Tour player watching recent action in the U.S., from Bryson’s bulkup to Dustin Johnson, human steamroller and all sorts of talk about distance — not to mention rights deals coming up, sponsors coming and going and “strategic alliances” being formed with the LPGA and European Tours, among other things.
Through it all, you’ve played just once on Tour in the last 18 months (at Winged Foot this September). That’s in contrast to many of your fellow Europeans, who have moved to the States to play the PGA Tour full-time. To get to the question: Why haven’t you done that? And how do you compare the two tours and your experience playing on each of them?
For the record, it does look from afar like the European Tour is more fun, but I imagine there are layers to those questions. Your playing opportunities, and, (related) your world ranking. Your preferred country of residence. The senses of humor on each respective tour. Zeroes on checks. Crowd sizes, in a world in which there are crowds.
And I wonder if it can ever feel like you’re on the outside looking in, as one of the world’s better players without full-time PGA Tour status.
Truth be told I know nothing about the proposed merger. I have no idea where it all plans to go. For years I’ve gone on about what a great job golf has managed to do, in a world full of mergers and acquisitions, to remain somewhat separate and broad. Though this might take something away from the ‘product’, it provides enormous breadth in terms on prize money, which in turn trickles down nicely into wider society. I hope the proposed changes don’t affect this phenomenon too much, as I think we’d all be worse off for it, apart from a few at the very top.
With regards to why I haven’t played more on the PGA Tour, it’s because I haven’t had any playing rights! Had I had some I would have definitely played more. Although I had a good finish at The Players last year it wasn’t enough to earn me temporary membership. I loved playing over in the U.S. There’s no doubt the events are better and the standard is higher. I also think it suits my strengths a bit more (iron play).
Playing in Europe (in normal times) is great, though. Much easier to travel for me living in England, much more variety in terms of culture and just a generally more diverse way of living, which I enjoy. There is a monotony to playing in the U.S.: Wake up, go grab a Starbucks, play golf and eat again. It feels more like Groundhog Day. BUT — and it’s a big BUT — the money is obviously tremendous on the PGA Tour. And that’s a massive attraction to all of us.
Ah, rude question by me, then — I thought for whatever reason you’d gained more Tour status but hadn’t used it! Though I can’t help but feel like your Twitter following alone should garner you some sponsor’s invites.
A couple more emails and then I’ll leave you be, for now.
When you see someone like Dustin Johnson go on a run like he’s currently on, or any top-five player from the last few years, how do you view yourself in comparison to that player? Does it feel like a narrow gap or a chasm? And what’s the biggest difference: Something vague like “mindset” and “talent” or more concrete like “driving distance”?
Then there’s the question I’m even more interested in: what’s the biggest difference between you and a failed mini-tour player, someone who can go low at home but not low enough at the right times, someone suspiciously similar to your current email correspondent? What’s the X-factor there? That gap feels pretty wide — is it?
Related — if you’re ever feeling down about the state of your game you should know that no other “Eddie” is inside the world’s top 1500 at the moment and not even another “Edward” inside the top 1000. Truly one-of-a-kind.
Hahaha! Edwards are usually too busy doing productive things in the world!
Comparing yourself to the world’s best player is, I think, pretty futile. Usually the very best at something is exceptional, and it’s not that you shouldn’t aspire to be the best, but comparing yourself with the best is something I see little value in.
Clearly, with regards to what he does better than me, the answer would be everything. Whether I can close the gap that’s currently between me and the best player in the world is likely to be more down to me than down to him. Only Tiger in his pomp would buck that logical conclusion! Ultimately therefore I have no choice but to try and be exceptional at as many parts of the game as I can be and see where I end up. Tragic answer I know but…
With regards to the more fun question: It’s likely to again be down to a number of factors. Tour golf courses tend to require a level of skill that is higher than what you’d find at a local club, so someone who can shoot 67 at the local club regularly doesn’t mean they are in any way “Tour-ready.”
Also, being prepared to psychologically compete in high pressure environments is usually a very uncomfortable experience and is something you have to be comfortable doing. Getting those butterflies every day and conquering them is a tiring task and one that almost requires a sadistic addiction. The pressure and nerves aren’t things many people are able to fall in love with and flourish in, but the most competitive and the best find a way to do so.
Apologies for the delay on responding. We had a nice cadence going there, but the world is moving very fast, and since the beginning of our half-dozen emails has already changed somewhat dramatically.
Most of that we can leave be, but two bits in particular seems relevant to our chat, because the U.S. president has been in the news in connection with two things you yourself enjoy: Twitter and golf. (I understand he doesn’t drink wine or own dogs, either, so you may be quickly running out of things in common.)
Why bring this up? Really it’s just a clumsy transition into asking your thoughts on Twitter, where you’re closing in on 150k followers! That’s a significant number, and more followers than a whole bunch of highly-ranked golfers. Some statistical proof:
World No. 2 Jon Rahm (125k followers)
No. 4 Xander Schauffele (42k)
No. 5 Collin Morikawa (40k)
No. 9 Patrick Cantlay (4k)
No. 10 Tyrrell Hatton (88k)
That’s a large audience. Simply asked: Why so many followers? What’s your favorite part of Twitter? And can you give Patrick Cantlay lessons?
More seriously, the subject matter of your tweets has certainly shifted over the course of the past year. That’s to be expected, of course — 2019 lacked a global pandemic — but you’ve been deeper into some of the world’s thorniest issues, airing your concerns about the side-effects of lockdowns, government hypocrisy and spiraling politicization. One awkwardly-worded tweet about processing your feelings on the pandemic got you, in your words, “canceled.”
Three questions on the subject: 1. How do you decide what to tweet? 2. Do you ever wish you hadn’t? and 3. Since we’ve got room for more than 280 characters here, what are the issues weighing on your mind? What gives you the greatest uneasiness about the current state of the world?
Sorry, we’re suddenly swimming in the deep end. But I thought you might like the chance.
Haha, I’d rather be Patrick Cantlay. As for swimming in the deep end: Life’s too short not to bother yourself with what’s going on, in my opinion, as we’re all going to be dead soon, relatively speaking. So f— it, might as well enter the fray, so to speak. And ironically 2020 gave me more confidence to do so.
The pandemic gave me a much greater sense of “f— it.” Why has it done that is a question I’m asking myself a lot. I think the answer is because I’ve had my freedoms taken away entirely. So for the first time in my life (since being an adult anyway), I’ve not been able to express myself in an autonomous world. And I’ve hated that. People will say, ‘well that’s just what you’ve got to do during this pandemic to save lives,’ which is true of course, to a degree, but it avoids the very thorny issue of what the enormous unintended consequences are of enforcing such rules.
I delete many tweets, believe it or not. Usually ones I find funny myself but think might be too dark. Sometimes, clearly, a few slip through the net. But honestly at the moment I’ve not got much to laugh at. The world is a depressing place and humour struggles to exist in a world of suppression and inactivity.
There probably are tweets I regret but they’re not coming to mind. My sock tweet from last year landed me in some hot water with someone very high up at the European Tour … that made my stomach drop a bit. But my Twitter is mostly (up until 2020, anyway) not to be taken seriously. Much of what I’ve said is a joke and I love preying on those who don’t see the joke. There aren’t many, cause most people are smart enough to see through my poorly veiled attempts at humour or irony, but the few who don’t get it I like to take advantage of. That sounds cruel, but if you see it as a game then it’s not cruel at all.
The thing with the follower counts, etc. and the fact that I have more followers than the second-best golfer in the world, which is crazy, is that it must reflect what the public want. The thing with me is I don’t see myself as a golfer per se. I don’t see myself as having extra responsibility. I see myself as a member of society, like anyone else, who looks at the world and takes from it what he sees. And that’s what my content reflects, whether it be my Twitter or blogs of the past or interviews, it’s my unfiltered review of things, I guess.
Top golfers, and sportspeople, must feel they cannot say what they think for whatever reason. They either don’t think a great deal, or don’t want the blowback, or take as gospel what’s been explained to them that they’re “role models” and must only “inspire.”
My mind doesn’t seem to work that way. I’m gutted it doesn’t sometimes, as I think I’d be better off for it, but it’s the way I am and the way I’ve always been.
Trump needs to get himself a dog. That will improve his image.
A lot to unpack there, and I think I’ll let most of it stand for itself. But I really think you’ve hit on something with that final idea — that athletes “must feel they cannot say what they think for whatever reason.” One thing that stuck out from watching HBO’s Tiger Woods documentary last week was the incredible pressure he felt representing all these different brands. Here’s how his caddie Stevie remembered Tiger saying it:
“Sometimes you feel you just can’t be yourself, because you’ve got so many people depending on you, so many people watching you, so many people invested in you.”
I’m glad you don’t feel that way, most of the time at least, and clearly tens of thousands of others feel the same way. I wonder what the exact tipping point is there, to feel pressure to not be yourself. Corporate sponsors? Advice from agents and advisors? Or maybe something simpler like “caring what other people think about you.” Maybe after your next big endorsement deal you’ll feel more of that pressure and send fewer tweets. Hopefully not, though.
I want your next reply to be our last email, for now, because I’ve enjoyed this and I’d like you to leave this exchange feeling the same way, so that we might do it again at some point. “Emails with Eddie” has a nice ring to it, after all.
So here’s what I’m wondering, to close: What’s next for you? I gather from Twitter that you’re in the Middle East, so you’re probably playing the European Tour’s Desert Swing through Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. What’s that stretch like? What are you focusing on as you prepare for a few weeks of tournament play? Do you have specific on-course goals for 2021?
Finally, I’ll give you the open mic: Is there anything on your mind that I didn’t even ask about, but now that you’re typing you’re inspired to share?
Hit ’em straight (and, more importantly, very far) out there.
Sorry for the late reply, Dylan. Yes my plan is to play Abu Dhabi, Dubai then Saudi Arabia. Although, ideally I’d have two good weeks the next two then not have to go to Saudi … so fingers crossed for that!
The ‘Desert Swing,’ as it’s known over here, is actually great. It comes at a great time, with it being after the Christmas break and everyone is itching to get going again. I will say that this year feels a little different, due to obvious reasons. For me, though, my aim is to keep on top of my technique through the year and the early events give me a good opportunity to test where I’m at. These aren’t courses that are typically suited to me and indeed I’ve not had a great deal of success in the desert (other than Qatar), but that actually excites me to be honest.
I have a new caddie (nicknamed Squirrel) so I’m excited about that new relationship. He actually caddied for Geoff Ogilvy when Geoff won at Winged Foot! So he’s experienced and is a great character. We should have some fun on the course together.
I don’t really have anything to get off my chest. Most of that has been done on Twitter lately, as we’ve already discussed!
Hope I’ve given you enough material, and we’ll catch up soon.