In the midst of a very hectic and utterly unsuccessful three days of golf last weekend one of my regular playing partners said:’ I’m beginning to suspect that you make these ridiculous shots on purpose to give yourself something to write about.’
Since I had just shanked a shot 20 yards into a greenside bunker for the third time in four holes, I was not very happy with the allegation.
Nor was I delighted when he added:’ Mind you, it would take brilliant golfer to be able to invent shots like that on a regular basis.’
I was in my way to a score of 129, many of them conceded in the bunkers I managed to shank into, and I have to confess that the amount of trouble I create for myself does have a touch of the uncanny about it.
If there was a trace of success about the weekend it was that I managed to fulfil all my golfing obligations without collapsing through fatigue.
The first event was the Cardiff & County Club’s Golf Society autumn meeting at Royal Porthcawl on Friday. This outing is made slightly more difficult by the tradition that we have a lunch on the previous day when the draw for partners is made.
This lunch invariably gets out of hand, so much so that if you don’t attend it for fear of surrendering your sobriety you are docked two shots the following day.
Sadly, we didn’t have a massive attendance and among the absentees was John Adams our captain who had returned from a cruise with bronchial problems caused, I suspect, by chasing old ladies around the deck in heavy seas.
During the ensuing luncheon melee I was appointed captain in his place although I don’t recall putting my name forward for election. Despite feeling much the worse for wear, I duly turned up at Porthcawl to find that our numbers had been reduced to ten.
We split up into two three-balls and a four-ball and went out to play an individual Stableford under glowering skies and buffeted by an east wind that gathered ferocity as the day progressed.
My three-ball partners were John Hopkins, former golf correspondent of The Times, and John Wooller, son of the Welsh sporting legend Wilf Wooller, who both play off 17.
I started with a promising three points on the first hole but it is a long time since I played in a wind as strong as that and all the finesse was soon blown out of my new swing.
You didn’t have to be all that far off course to have your ball swallowed by the rough and although my companions didn’t do too badly on the front nine the worsening wind affected them, too, and we were soon spending most of out time looking for balls. Those we did find proved very difficult to hit.
The wind did help me to birdie the par four 10th which, I must point out, was the only birdie any of us had all day but it was an isolated success. Each of us blobbed five holes on the back nine and heaven knows how many balls we lost. I finished with 15 points, Wooller had 21 and Hopkins 20.
Meanwhile, the three-ball in front of us had whizzed around and finished a good half-hour ahead of us and the four-ball had called it a day on the 12th.
The runaway winner was Mathew, son of the club’s Hon Sec Ceri Preece, who scored a praiseworthy 34 points off a handicap of five, and the second was Tony Davies who scored 28 points. Unfortunately, Mathew and Tony had had to rush off so my first prize-giving as captain was a bit low-key which was just as well because nobody had brought the trophy.
But I was able to present the third prize of £10 to John Wooller, a moving ceremony in front of the three who were still present. It was hardly an auspicious start to my year of office but things will be different for our Spring Meeting.
The following day was the Centurion event at The Glamorganshire. This tournament was founded by Mike Hennessey in recognition of my ten-year battle to break 100 in a medal. Mike discovered that as many as 160 failed to break 100 at least once in the season and created a tournament no-one wants to qualify for.
It was Mike who made the comments at the start of this article and I will draw a veil over the humiliating chapter of cock-ups that led me to 129. But, in a way, winning wouldn’t have been any less unpleasant. Some had been informed that winter rules were in force for the first time and some hadn’t. Some had been told we were off the blue tees and others the yellow tees. So the tournament was declared void.
The following morning I dragged myself to the seventh hole for the 9 am shot-gun start of the winter league. It was the first time my partner Dave Ellis and I played together, one or other having been away in the first two weeks.
We were drawn to play Peter Caltabiano, an American who runs a car-hire company, and Keith Farrell, who has the local BMW franchise. Peter plays off 26 and is reputed to be even wilder off the tee than me while Keith’s is a very good 19 handicapper and is under scrutiny by the match captain.
I was looking forward to sharing tee-shots with another hacker but we reached the tee to find that Peter had gone back to the States for a week and a nine-handicapper, Craig Gore, was taking his place.
To suddenly find yourself matched with a young big-shot is not good for morale but I didn’t get off to a bad start. We were getting seven shots and we were two up after three holes and maintained that lead for five or six holes before they gradually got back at us.
We weren’t playing badly, Dave especially, but they won three holes in a row and began to assert themselves and we feared the worse when they went three up with four to play.
But we won the next and halved the one after that to be two down with two to play. We then won the next to take them down the last hole where I put Dave under a low branch which helped to destroy our hopes.
Losing on the 18th is no disgrace and I played a lot better. I went for a lesson on Tuesday and I have high hopes for this Sunday when I should be a bit fresher. Although, when I think of it, I don’t have a lot of entitlement to any confidence at all.