How I became
owner of a frog

I don’t know what a violin-playing frog has to do with being a bad golfer but I have a very handsome statue of one on my mantle-piece — the latest addition to my pathetically sparse collection of golfing trophies.

It was gained at the annual Chips and Crisps golf day and supper at which we celebrate the Wednesday and Thursday swindles. About 50 took part and a good day it was. There seemed to be prizes for everyone. Mine, of course, was at the bottom of the list.

With only 17 points I didn’t expect much sympathy but it was a pleasant experience, nonetheless.

We hackers usually moan about the amount of derision we receive but we are sometimes treated with touching sensitivity. The ghastly term ’Booby prize’ is generally affixed to the award received by the poorest performer in various sports but in golf the words ‘Best Endeavour’ are often used — a far kinder title for the disgrace.

Slightly mocking it may be but it is as if they recognise that scoring the worst total can require a lot more effort that bringing home a more respectable score, which in many ways is true. Anyone who thinks that playing golf badly is easy has never had to undergo the torment.

And the frog is way above the usual tawdry reward a hacker gets and I shall treasure it as a very artistic appreciation of my labours. If only they had left it at that.

The other part of my Best Endeavour prize was less than subtle; a packet of tees called ‘Nuddie Tees’. These are utterly tasteless and take the form of a naked lady with a flat head and a pair of legs intended to go into the ground for the teeing-off process. If they think I’m going to put my balls on them they have another think coming.

I had been drawn with Nick Crofts as my partner which was not good news for him because there are prizes for the highest pairs as well as individuals so that was one prize he was out of before the start.

This also applied to Jeff Osborne, another decent player, because he was drawn with Mike Hennessy who, like me, has had a debilitating year. He has a shoulder problem and faces an operation later this month.

At least, Mike and I were able to share a buggie so if they wanted to moan about us we were usually well out of earshot. Not they would, of course, being patient and forgiving men.

Mike was managing to do better than me but he was suffering so much he called it a day after the eighth. Strangely enough, I started hitting the ball better on the back nine but I couldn’t make sense of the greens and 17 points was the miserable outcome.

But the Chips and Crisps are an enjoyable and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The day for notable for another event — it turned out that it was my last round in a buggie. I’d been hiring one since I began chemo treatment back in March.

It tires you out a bit so I’ve been needing wheels to get around but I was determined to get back walking. Trouble was, I needed to be sure I could complete the round but the winter league forced me to find out the hard way.

I’m afraid things haven’t been going too well in the league. My partner, Dave, and I lost our first three matches thanks to my inconsistency. While I bring the blessing of 28 shots to the partnership I also bring many other things, like shanks and air-shots.

We did manage to win the fourth match against Derek and Ian. Derek only took up the game at the beginning of the year but he is sticking manfully to the task. Unfortunately, he made more mistakes than me.

The following week we came up against Paul Brown and Ged Donovan and ran into a whirlwind. Paul, who is off 15, hit some tremendous approach shots, while Ged, off 22, also got into the act and as well as Dave played — and me, sometimes — they beat us 3 and 2.

I had occasion during the game to question Paul’s handicap and threatened to report him to the handicap committee. It turns out that he’s on the handicap committee. But it was all good natured and I was in a good mood because the ground was too wet to allow buggies so I had to walk the course and only rarely was I puffing like an old goat.

Last week we encountered Bob Bubbins and Kevin Parry who, like us, had won only one out of five which I was surprised at because they should be a solid pair.

On the first tee I asked Bob how they had lost four out of five. He pointed at Kevin and said:’ He’s playing crap.’

That’s what winter league golf is like, it tends to be the coarser end of the game. Needless to say, Kevin played nothing like crap and we found ourselves fighting for our lives again.

I was driving the evens with Bob and he was hitting it miles past me. But it was all good fun on a lovely morning and I didn’t play too badly with just the odd atrocity.

I think we did very well to take them to the 17th and afterwards we had a good laugh and a drink and my son had to come and pick me up. And I walked the course again and felt great — which means I can’t make any more excuses about being an invalid.

2 thoughts on “How I became
owner of a frog

  1. Lovely to read this, I have many happy memories of playing in the “Snakes” in the 70’sand early 80’s before I moved to Devon, I’m now reduced to playing 9, three times a week, four hip replacements and other sessions under the surgeon’s knife have taken their toll on my old body. I have never found the equivalent of lunchtime in the Men’s Bar in all the other clubs in which I’ve been a member, I would like to think it was the same but I suppose it has fallen under equality umbrella and lost its charm.
    I look forward to being able to follow your trials and tribulations for a long time to come.
    Tony Mason

    • Hello Tony,
      I an assure you that the atmosphere in the bar is as rowdy as ever and the new chief snake, Dave Hankey, is playing a blinder.

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Wales hand the
spoon to England

The Welsh Golf-writers team returned in triumph from an excellent event in Turkey last week. We didn’t win the Home Internationals championship but we didn’t lose it either, beating England 3-0 in the 3rd/4th play-off.

Actually, we should have finished second but more of that later. Let’s concentrate instead on the fact that we gave the English a whitewash and sent them home with the wooden spoon that is normally our fate.

The Home Internationals have been going for 23 years and I am the last of the original captains — Alistair Nichol has died, Colm Smith and Michael McDonnell have retired — although I missed the last one through illness.

Bringing together four six-man teams of golf writers from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales for an annual tournament was the brainchild of Pat Ruddy, an Irish journalist and golf course creator, who figured that we spent all year covering grand events it would be good to have one of our own.

Accordingly, we had team colours, a band and a proper flag-raising ceremony at the St Margaret’s course, north of Dublin.

That was the pattern for the first few years and the internationals eventually moved to Pat Ruddy’s brilliant links course at the European Club on Brittas Bay, Wicklow.

The tournament then toured the rest of the home countries while maintaining its popularity as a hotly-contested annual battle. Finding the right venues has been increasingly difficult in recent years but we jumped at the chance of taking it abroad when we were invited to stage it in Turkey this year.

We couldn’t have asked for a better venue than the Montgomerie course at the Maxx Royal Golf & Spa hotel in Belek. This will be the scene of the Turkish Open next month so we did our best to leave it in one piece.

We were flown by Turkish Airlines from our various countries to Antalya ,which is only a short distance from the golf-rich area of Belek, Because of time limitations we had to truncate our usual format and draw for opponents with the two winners playing for the title on the second day and the two losers playing for the wooden spoon.

Wales drew Ireland which wasn’t good because the Irish traditionally have a very strong team. They seem to have a greater golf-writer per capita ratio of any other country. Wales, on the other hand, have a select but small selection of the golfing literati, hence my continuing role as captain.

And so it was that we took a hammering although it didn’t hurt very much on a sunny 75 degree day on such a lovely tree-lined lay-out.

I was playing with Paul Williams, late of the Western Mail and now the Celtic Manor, against Denis Kirwan of TV3 and Gary Moran, the RTE sports editor.

We were playing greensome foursomes in which both of you drive, you select the better shot and then play alternately. They were giving us ten shots and could have afforded to give us a few more.

We managed to hold our own for a while but they hit the ball so well that their consistency overwhelmed us and we lost five and four. A very friendly and enjoyable game but a hammering nevertheless.

Dave Facey of the Sun, who organised he trip, fared little better with freelance and top-twitterer Paul Mahoney. Simon Curle, of the South Wales Argus, and Martin Johnson, of the Sunday Times, put up a sterner show but also lost and we suffered a whitewash.

Meanwhile, Scotland overcame England 2-1 and earned the right to play Ireland in the final the following day leaving us and England to fight over the scraps.

That evening we were treated to a delightful Turkish meal that had more dishes than a Welsh dresser and afterwards retired to one of the Maxx Royal’s eleven bars.

Thankfully, we were not required to play until 11 am the next day. We had changed our partnerships and David Facey had to put up with me. Fortunately, we found ourselves matched against an English pair who ten years ago had made us a laughing stock.

We were playing at Carton House in Ireland against Jim Mossop, of the Sunday Telegraph, and Bob Cass, of the Mail and Sunday, and swept merrily into the lead. We were six up after seven holes and then suffered a series of golfing mishaps too embarrassing to recall. We finally lost 2 an 1 and they’ve never let us forget it.

When I wrote about it at the time they complained that I called them a pair of gnarled old Fleet Street veterans. I promised not to do it again. This time I have to refer to them as wizened old Fleet Street has-beens — a description from which I can’t spare myself.

But we got our revenge. It didn’t look that way at the start because Jim chipped in over a steep bank at the third to take the lead. And they soon increased it to two and kept us at bay until they began to flag near the end when Facey’s long hitting was the telling factor.

I wasn’t a great help and offered an air-shot as part of my contribution but I kept my end up and we were one up going down the 18th. . To cut a long story short, I needed a 15 footer to clinch the match and I sank it with some aplomb to a burst of applause from the terrace above.

To be fair to Cassy, he followed in with a slightly shorter putt to get the half but we won one up. Our other pairs, Curle and Williams and Mahoney and Johnson, also won to register a 3-0 victory, which is never a bad result against England.

In the main match, the Irish team led by their captain Brian Keogh of the Irish Sun demolished the Scots 3-0 to claim the Joe Carr trophy we’ve been competing for since 1993. Our Turkish hosts generously added another splendid trophy to play for in the future.

It was a sad day for the Scots and their captain Martin Dempster of The Scotsman. Their team included John Huggan, who was one of the UK’s top amateurs in his day and who now writes for Golf Digest, and some other doughty performers.

I hate to mention it but they won only two games over the two matches while Wales won three but I’m not claiming second place because I’m sure it was the bloody referendum that wore them out.

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