A woeful
weekend

It was a double-whammy weekend that fell well short of my hopes if not my expectations. My last chance to break 100 in 2014 came in the Centurions’ Medal — a competition especially for those who had failed to score below 100 at least once in the season.

The following morning was the first day of our winter league, the Snakes and Ladders, an altogether different proposition because it is foursomes and hackers are only responsible for half the shots.

Considering my form in the few medals I’ve played this year, I wasn’t over confident of success in the Centurions but, ever-optimistic, I sailed happily into the fray and not even an eight on the first dampened my enthusiasm.

That eight was the result of a three-putt which turned out to be the pattern of the day. I didn’t hit the ball all that badly but I just couldn’t get the pace of the greens.

It was a rare round for me because I didn’t score double figures on any hole. Usually, my card is ruined by two or three disaster holes but this time damage was more evenly spread around the 18 holes Perhaps consistency is creeping into my game.

But my wretched performance on the greens was depressing. The 18th was typical. My tee shot on the 190 yards par three was high and straight and finished about 20 feet from the pin. I had visions of a birdie and a share of the ball-sweep but I proceeded to three-putt again.

My final score was 113 which doomed me to finish the season on a low note. However, there appeared to be one consolation — I was told that mine was the highest score and I’d win a bottle of scotch.

Sad to say, another saddo came in with 113 and to cap both of us someone else weighed in with 126 and deserved a series of stiff drinks.

But I did enjoy the round which started off in pouring rain but gradually turned into a decent day. My two playing companions were Dan Barnett, who plays off 22, and Dave Virgin who is a 20 handicapper.

Both were far steadier than me. Dan and I had both paid two quid to enter the ball sweep and on the tenth I was on the green from the tee but my attempt at a two was miles out and I three-putted again. Dan, however, chipped in for a two from 25 yards away and the sweep paid out nine balls — so I’m so pleased we’d agreed to share.

Sadly Dan, who’d looked certain to break 100 by a distance, found a bunker on the 17th and scored a ten that saw him finish with exactly 100. David, who’d scored a ten on the third, recovered well for a 97.

The following morning I was back for the start of the winter league with my usual partner Dave Ellis who is a perfect partner because he not only plays a good game off 14, he is patient and forgiving enough to put up with my golf for ten Sundays in a row.

Our opponents were Paul Mathias, off 21, and Graham Prothero, off 19, and they had to give us one shot — which looked to be last thing we needed because we were five up after the first five holes.

We were playing quite well. Even I was hitting good shots while they were struggling to get their act together.

The fifth hole summed up their plight. It is a sharp dog-leg left and way to the right is our half-way house, a cabin situated behind the eighth green and the ninth tee.

Graham’s drive went so far right it finished underneath a table outside the half-way house where half-a-dozen or so were scoffing their pies. You can imagine the ribaldry when Paul arrived to play the next shot.

While the pie-eaters reluctantly relinquished their seats, he took a drop and proceeded to execute a shank that threatened a few pies, narrowly missed the cabin, bounced off the toilet wall and rebounded back to finish nestling against the cabin wall.

To the background of merciless laughter, Graham had to play a left-handed shot with the back of a club to put the ball back in play. Needless to say, we won the hole and our opponents were gloomily looking forward to getting back to the clubhouse for an early drink.

We never won another hole. Paul and Graham underwent an unbelievable transformation. Graham, particularly, began hitting the ball long and straight and we could hardly contain them.

I contributed to their cause by cocking up the eighth but I’m not sure thery needed my help as they won three of the next four holes. We managed to keep them at bay by gaining a few halves but they went one up after 15, two up after 16 and won two and one at the 17th.

Five up after five and getting beat. It takes a bit of doing and it didn’t help that Graham confessed that he hadn’t played for ten weeks.

’If he played regularly, he’d be a very good player,’ said Paul.

’He’s not too bloody bad now,’ we said, but not in a nasty way.

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Hackers’ last
hope for glory

With the possible exception of Gleneagles last weekend, the greatest Ryder Cup show of all will take place at The Glamorganshire golf club on Saturday.

It’s Wales V Rest of the World and is so hotly contested it is a wonder wars don’t break out as a result. But the special part of the day is that it doesn’t just embrace the top players — the worst players in the club also get their chance at glory.

The teams for our Ryder Cup comprise 18 a side — 14 on merit with four captain’s picks.

How all that works out is explained on the right of this page.

For obvious reasons, I am more concerned with the lesser lights who will be doing battle that day.

When the Ryder Cup was introduced in 1998 it was such an immediate success that the club felt that it should do something to involve the higher handicap players in the jollities of the day.

It so happens that my struggles to break 100 in a medal date back to the early days of our Ryder Cup and I had begun to write about it in my Hacker column in the Independent on Sunday.

An examination of our medal records revealed that I was not alone in being unable to get under the magic mark. More than 150 had failed to do so at least once in the season.

So they formed the Centurions and announced there would be an annual competition called the Centurion Medal to be held on the same day as the Ryder Cup.

Some of us were delighted, others were decidedly undelighted. Lower handicap players who had found themselves bringing in a score of 100 plus once or twice did not want to be bracketed with the regular hackers.

For the first year or so when the names of the Ryder Cup teams were put on the notice board the names of those who qualified for the Centurions were also put up.

There was an outcry from those who didn’t want their failures made public and the club were forced to discontinue the policy. The Centurions therefore remain anonymous apart from those of us who are happy to turn up to play in the competition.

What is remarkable in how the number of Centurions has increased over the years. This year the number of those who fail to break 100 has risen to about 22 per cent of those who enter.

And a new phenomenon has arisen — the number of ’no returns’ in each medal has shot up. There are bound to be instances in which a player loses his ball, decides not to bother to go back and play another and puts ‘nr’ on his card thereby voiding it.

Some players, however, are so frightened of returning a score in excess of 100 they ’nr’ to avoid the ignominy.

It is difficult to say how many ’nrs’ are genuine but the figures for the August medal are worth studying. A total of 177 took part in what were very tough conditions — with only four players breaking 80.

Forty players failed to break 100 but there were an astonishing 29 ’nrs’. Since this was the medal in which I recorded a career-worst 142 you would think it have been less painful for me to ’nr’ but I believe in facing up to my deficiencies no matter how humiliating.

Obviously, others don’t. It is a comfort to hackers, however, to know that scoring 100 or more is not uncommon. Indeed, our results show that around 22 per cent of those who playing in our medals this season have registered 100 or more at least once.

If you include the ’nrs’ in the figures then 33 per cent of those who entered failed to break the ton for one reason or another.

So the 70-plus who set out in the Centurions Medal on Saturday are not that rare a breed. We needn’t hang our heads in shame. At least we face up to our failings and we’ll be busting a gut to break 100 as usual.

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