A rare Hacker win in Ireland

Compared to Wales’s victory over Ireland in Dublin yesterday it was nothing but in my long and largely lamentable search for scraps of golfing success it was a rare accomplishment.
I was over there as part of the Royal Porthcawl team to play our annual fixture against Portmarnock golf club whose world-renowned links lie on a peninsular eight miles north-east from the heart of Dublin.
By some strange co-incidence, the fixture always coincides with Ireland playing Wales in the Six Nations and the format is 36 holes of foursomes match-play on the day before the rugby, followed by dinner, songs and jokes. On the day of the game, there is a convivial lunch and after the match there are elaborate plans to ensure the departing golfers don’t go home thirsty.
As you might have gathered by my inclusion, selection for the team is not entirely made on merit. Most of the 14 strong side were good golfers but there are other factors such as availability, sociability and the courage not to faint at the sight of a large quantity of Guinness because the hospitality involved in being hosted by Portmarnock is fiercely enthusiastic.
Thankfully, the match manager for Royal Porthcawl was my friend Martin Price, who plays off four, and he chose to partner me in the morning session to save me being a burden to anyone else.
Say what you like about 28 handicappers but we always bring plenty of shots with us and my pile enable us to have six shots from our opponents, Brian Keogh who plays off 18, and Brian Fives who is a three handicapper.
The weather was lot less wintry than it was in the UK but there still a drizzle coming off the Irish Sea when we set off. We looked to be in for a morning under the cosh but Martin sank a 20 footer to halve the first and then turned in a masterly putting performance.
For my part, I was driving so straight I couldn’t believe it was me. I was taking the evens along with Brian Keogh and I think he became sick at me apologising for hitting them down the middle.
I mean, if you playing against a 28 handicapper you are entitled to expect him to spray them around a bit. But Brian, a retired consultant physician, specialising in kidney ailments, could not have been more affable and courteous company and never once mentioned the word bandit.
Meanwhile, Martin was either rattling them in or leaving them stone dead. I didn’t get a putt until the par three seventh hole and I nearly didn’t get one then.
We watched Martin ’s tee-shot roll into the hole and we celebrated with hugs and high fives. When we got to the green, however, we found that the ball had rolled a yard past. It was an optical illusion and I suddenly found myself with a nervy three-footer to win the hole.
As you might expect from someone off three, Brian Fives was hitting the ball a distance but our six shots turned out to be very handy. Martin said he’d never had so many shots before. ‘Stick with me, son,‘ I said.
We won four and three and, since the others all lost, Porthcawl were down 5-1. After a lunch of Guinness, a beautiful Irish stew, some red wine and two large Kummels, we changed partners for the afternoon session.
I was partnered with John Dodd, who I play regularly with back home, and his legs were as heavy as mine so we managed to procure a buggy. Apart from being a superb course, Portmarnock is fairly flat but it is long and old legs need carrying sometime.
Our opponents were John R Lynch and Barry Doyle who are both solicitors. Barry is the Portmarnock’s Hon Sec. He is off 26 and John is 13 so we were getting five shots. They turned out to be nowhere near enough.
On the first, Doddy and I were already down the hole and John had a 25 footer for a half. He crouched over his putter with his left hand on the grip and his right hand down the shaft to about eight inches up from the blade.
He sank the putt sweet as a nut. We held our curiosity for a few holes but finally asked John how he arrived at this putting style.
He said he used to be the world’s worst putter, averaging about 40 putts a round, but he gradually adopted this method and it is a lot better now. Hw can say that again.
Then we noticed Barry’s putting style which was not quite as original but just as effective. It is the claw grip, as perfected by the American golfer Chris DiMarco, with the fingers of the right hand pushing the ball towards the hole.
Barry was having big putting trouble, too, until he took to this new method and the pair of them putted the stuffing out of us.
Although the weather in the morning had been not at all uncomfortable, the afternoon brought heavy rain and a cold wind.
We were three down at the turn and the clubhouse looked very welcoming and we passed it to start the second nine. I was tempted to call it day then but we soldiered on until the eleventh where we were about to go five down with seven to play.
Wet and cold, I asked:’ Would you consider it rude if we conceded the game.’ They said they thought that was a very good decision. So it was back to the Guinness and the news that we’d only won one of the afternoon games. Former Welsh rugby international Terry Melia and his partner Rob Johnson saving us from a complete whitewash.
The match managers, Martin and Portmarnock’s Brendan MacClancy, master minded the after-dinner jollities which included speeches by the host club’s captain Matt Walsh and our captain Arwel Morgan.
Both clubs have annual meetings with other clubs involved in the Six Nations. Mixing golf and rugby makes for a great weekend but since Portmarnock didn’t gloat at their win on the golf club, I am not even going to mention the rugby result.
end

5 thoughts on “A rare Hacker win in Ireland

  1. am so glad your column has found a new home. Your column was my main reason for getting the
    Independent on Sunday & you will becsadly missed. But have now found you here hurrah.

  2. Best wishes in your endeavours Peter. Hope your new website is as well visited and read as your column in the Independent. Their loss is our gain!

  3. Great to see you still in print. Missed you last Saturday, first time I’ve played in snow in 44 years. Mike insisted that we were not allowed to clear the snow on the greens to putt although everyone else was. I think he was just cross because he was having trouble completing his 4 drives. When we got back to the club we found that it was perfectly legal to do so.

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