I failed once more to break 100 in the monthly medal last weekend but my 104 was the closest I’ve got for several years and my disappointment was somewhat distracted by the fate of our match captain, Leon Reece.
Leon, recently returned to civvy street after serving as a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, has been leading the fight against slow play which has also been engaging the professional tours on both sides of the Atlantic — only he seems to be doing better.
While the pros are battling against five hour rounds, Leon is trying to get ours under the four hour mark. While he is achieving this during the morning rounds of a medal, the afternoon pace of play tends to drop substantially, causing a lot of frustration.
The role of match captain is the least enviable in any club because, apart from the work involved, he is responsible for handicaps and for dealing with slow play.
And while every member agrees that speeding up play is vital, no-one likes to be pulled up for doing a bit of dawdling.
Last year, Leon appointed a few invalids like me as course marshals and we buzzed around in buggies checking that no group lost too much ground on the group in front.
This year he has become a little more aggressive and in his post-medal emails to members — called the ’match captain’s rant’ — he has been naming and shaming our slower brethren. Two weeks ago he disqualified three members for being seven minutes late teeing off at the first tee, a charge they deny. Hence, some dispute.
At all levels of the game, attempts to combat slow play seem bound to end in controversy and Leon is a brave man to tackle the problem head on, even though as an old hacker I’m not the world’s quickest.
The other aspect of medal play he is trying to sort out is the number of players who NR — make a non return — in medals. Some do it to save embarrassment of a high score but we can get as many as 20 Nrs a medal and it does make a difference to the competition scratch score.
Last Saturday, Leon began his round as I was relaxing on the veranda with a pint and I was startled to see him sprinting back to the tee. He couldn’t find his drive in the trees and had to go back to play three-off-the-tee which is a very time-consuming practice.
He also had to sprint back on the 12th and when he lost a ball on the 15th he decided not to participate any longer and became an ‘NR’, an act for which he apologised in his ‘rant’.
Meanwhile, I was contemplating being just five shots short of the 99 I have been longing for during the past decade…. I could go back over my round and think of a dozen I could have saved.
I had an air-shot and a three-off-the-tee for a start — then again, every golfer can look back and rue missed chances whatever he scores.
The point is that the target is well in sight. The past three years have not been good. In 2011, I played in seven medals and my lowest score was 107 and my highest was 124 and most of the others were in the high teens.
But I did very well in the knockout competitions that year. It was only when I had a card in my hand that I really struggled.
Due to cancer surgery, I missed out the summer season of 2012 but played in the winter league and this spring was itching to get back on the trial of the ton. But my first three medals have produced 120, a career-worst 139 and 112.
So my 104 doesn’t look bad in that context and it wasn’t an easy day. The sun was out but there was a very strong easterly wind which was dead against on the 15th, 16th and 17th. The scores of the 15th, a 416 yard uphill par four, were no birdies, 8 pars, 64 bogeys and 130 double bogeys or worst.
My nett score was 76 which put me far higher in the finishers that I’ve ever been and far higher than John Dodd who I play with at Royal Porthcawl where he regularly murders me. We rarely play together at The Glamorganshire and he came in with 102 which gave him a nett of 82.
But the best result was that I know now I can do it. Belief is all.