Knackered but I
dodged the booby

Darts is a great game, as the World Championships on TV have been proving recently, but to suggest that a hacker should go and play it instead of golf is a disgrace — and that nearly happened to me over Christmas.

I played in the Egg Cup on the Saturday and was fearful that I would finish the year with another booby prize.

I wrote last time about how my latest collection of booby prizes were a statuette of a frog and a sack of potatoes.

And when I came in with a sad 21 points, I feared I was going to be handed another mocking award. But, somehow, someone managed to beat me to it. Did they take pity on me or did he really score fewer?

We’ll never know because no scores were announced but I do know that poor man had to read out a golf poem and was then presented with a set of darts.

As a suggestion that you should go and play some other game, how pointed is that?

My one excuse for my low score was that I was knackered. The previous day, which was Boxing Day, we had our traditional Cross Country event in which we traverse the course instead of proceeding up and down the fairways as normal.

We go from the first tee to the fourth green and then zig-zag our way around nine make-piece holes; some of them very strange, going over ditches and through trees and measuring up to 800 yards long.

I actually won the event many years ago partnering Simon Curle who played off one or two at the time. But I had to do my bit as we play greensome foursomes which means you both drive, select the better one and then play alternate shots.

Because of the terrain and the obstacles to be overcome it is by no means straight-forward and you both have to be resourceful, long and accurate. We won it easily and when Simon was teased for taking advantage of a high-handicapper’s shots, he happily pointed out that we won it with our gross score.

It was probably my finest hour and I’ve never come even close to so successfully bashing my way sideways around the course.

This year I played with Leon who had just completed his year of captaincy and was probably looking for a little light relief. He didn’t get it. I was a burden and it turned out that one of the Christmas presents I didn’t realise I’d received was a shank.

Our playing partners were two of the South Wales Constabulary’s finest former officers, Keith Nicholls and Steve Summers, who have somehow managed to avoid the CID investigating their handicaps.

We played them for a fiver a corner and although neither pair looked like challenging the leaders we had a very tight tussle which went to the very last putt. It looked as if we were going to finish level when Steve sank a 25 footer to take the money.

It was a great game but the weather was appalling. Not only was it blowing a gale, there was a driving drizzle that found its way through your waterproofs. Never mind, you have to take your pleasures where you can.

I didn’t realise how much it had worn me out until the next morning when I turned up for the Egg Cup which is a tournament organised by Arwyn Williams to celebrate his birthday.

He invites about 50 of us to play for individual and team prizes and then we get a sausage and mash supper. We have to pay, of course, but since he’s a former bank manager what do you expect ?

Anyhow, it’s always a lot of fun and the weather was a bit better than it had been on Boxing Day. Unfortunately, one of our team of four missed the first hole. Tony Edmunds, who insists on being called Slug, had got the times wrong and when he turned up accused us of starting ten minutes early.

As a team, we never got over that bad start and Slug certainly didn’t. He was almost as bad as me. The other team members, Alan Buchan and Chris Pickles, did better and got among the winners but it was hard going and I was flagging well before end.

After our sausages and mash I actually fell asleep in the bar. Next year, I think I’ll stay home in the warm and drink my Christmas presents.

One thought on “Knackered but I
dodged the booby

  1. Have a good rest now and learn this new chipping method, I am looking forward to hearing about it, I need all the help I can get! Have been hunting out Peter Dobereiner’s books on the net, I didn’t realise that you were colleagues, I can understand why golf writers have a good sense of humor, you need it when you have been playing this stupid, fascinating game for 50yrs or so. More power to your pen.

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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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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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