Stirred up
by the spoon

A couple of dozen winter leaguers at The Glamorganshire are sweating under the threat of receiving the dreaded wooden spoon at the prize-giving supper on Saturday evening — all because of a sadistic Chief Snake who refuses to name the luckless pair until the last minute.

You would think that in any well-ordered competition the rules of engagement would be quite straightforward, with the top prize going to the best pair and the worst pair getting the wooden spoon.

But no-one ever accused the Snakes and Ladders of being well-ordered. Actually, the format is excellent. It embraces 72 pairs — that’s 144 golfers — and each Sunday the winners move up the ladder and the losers move down ensuring that the following week winners play winners and losers play losers.

Thus, over the ten weeks, the cream rises to the top and the crap to the bottom of the ladder which has pride of place in the bar.

There are vague rules, such as how many subs each pair is allowed, but generally the competition is run under the iron-fist of the Chief Snake who traditionally operates under just two rules:-

Rule One: The Chief Snake is always right.

Rule Two: In the event of the Chief Snake being proved wrong, Rule One applies.

It works well because there is nothing wrong with a benevolent dictatorship and our current Chief is nothing if not benevolent. Dave Hancock is very popular and this has been his first session in the job.

He took over from Peter ’Jammie’ James who was a very difficult man to follow. The main duty of the Chief Snake is to preside over the Sunday lunchtime raffle and give a scathing account of the morning’s play, naming all those guilty of air-shots and other golfing atrocities.

Jammie would have a packed bar of about 150 in stitches with the quality of his badinage interspersed with saucy jokes.

If there were any doubts that Dave, an ex-copper, would be able to maintain that standard he has soon dispelled them with his own brand of humour which makes up in comedic strength what it may lack in subtlety.

They do say that golf is a funny game but on winter Sunday mornings at our club it is positively hilarious and as far away from the game’s staid image as it possible to get.

Last Sunday was the final day and those in contention at the top and the bottom took out Stableford cards in case tie-breakers were needed to finalise the finishing order.

There was no problem in deciding the top five prize-winners but even though one pair hadn’t won a single match it was announced that they wouldn’t automatically win the wooden spoon. The Chief Snake wanted time to consider if other pairs were more deserving of the disgrace.

Winning the spoon means having your names engraved on a giant spoon above the fireplace in the bar and having to make a much-heckled speech at the presentation supper. In order to avoid it, hackers will persuade better players to sub for them at a crucial stage.

My partner Dave and I have won three matches and with plenty of pairs having won fewer than that we thought we were safe but for some reason we are mentioned as possible spoonists. We tried to make it four wins last Sunday but ex-printers Dave Virgin and Phil Salter beat us four and two.

Our cause wasn’t helped by Dave jarring one of his fingers which affected his driving and long fairway shots but, oddly enough, my ball-striking improved considerably.

‘Ten weeks, and now he starts hitting it,’ was Dave’s unkind comment.

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Saved by the
blessing of 31 shots

There have been dramatic developments in my golfing year. I am now fully fit to walk courses in the foulest weather — twice around Royal Porthcawl in howling gales and rain have proved that.

And after nine months beset with a high pitched squeak instead of a voice, I am now able to shout ‘fore’ in almost manly fashion.

But the improvements stop there. The cancer treatment may be working but I am still playing crap golf and my form in the winter league has been inconsistent to say the least.

Last Sunday, my partner, Dave Ellis and |I, narrowly escaped humiliating defeat against a player who was giving us 31 shots,

There are harsh rules in our winter league in which we play foursomes. If one of a pair doesn’t turn up, the other must give the full difference in shots to the opposition.

The pair we were due to play, Paul and Graham, played us in the first of the ten-game pre-Christmas league and when we went five up after the first five holes we were looking forward to an early drink. But the transformation in their game was such that we didn’t win another hole and lost on the last.

So we were looking forward to getting our revenge. However, neither of them could play and they arranged for two subs to take their place.

But when we got to the first tee only one of them had turned up. He was Andy Warner and he wasn’t very happy. He’d driven eight miles for a competitive game of golf and now faced the prospect of a bloody good hiding.

Normally, we play half the difference between the two handicaps but if only one turns up he has to give the full difference. Since his handicap is 11 and our combined is 42, that meant 31 shots.

He then proceeded to lose a ball on our first hole, drive out of bounds on the second and then cock up the third.

To be three down after three did not sweeten his demeanour. ‘I’m determined to give you boys a game,’ he said.

And he proceeded to do just that. A massive hitter, Andy can be a bit wayward but anger added accuracy to his armoury.

On the next hole, a par-five of over 500 yards, he was on the green in two. We had two shots but they didn’t help much when we took five to get to the green and he claimed one back.

He was pin high for two on the next, another par five, and just short of the green on the one after, a par four..

Our shots were giving us an obvious advantage but on the longer holes he was easily over-powering us for distance. After our eleventh hole, another par five he devoured, we were only one up and very worried.

But he found a deep and nasty greenside bunker on the next to go two down. Another par five followed but his soaring drive dribbled into the trees and he had to take a drop. This coincided with me hitting a good fairway wood for the first and only time and we were on the green for three nett one and he was there for four.

He kept fighting and won another hole but he lost a ball on our 16th and we won 4 and 2. We would have all been a lot happier had we not finished on the furthest point of the course from the clubhouse and had a mile walk back.

But he had turned a potentially lop-sided disaster into a very good and close game and went home a proud man.

This means that we have won only three out of the nine games we have played and one of those was with the help of a super-sub, my dentist Martin Price when Dave was away in the States.

But it has been a feature of most of our defeats that one or both of our opponents have played out of their skin. I have a theory that this very column may play a part in this sudden surge of opposition form.

They are desperate not to lose to us in case I take the piss out of them in The Hacker. As if.

But we are not out of danger yet. We are still in wooden spoon territory and we must win our last match on Sunday to be home and dry. Although I don’t think we’ll be dry for long on that day.

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