Chips with

It was the annual Chips and Crisps day at the club on Thursday and despite it being my third round in a tiring five days I thoroughly enjoyed it –although I do regret not being of more help to my partner.

The Chips and Crisps are the titles of two of our unofficial societies — every club has them and they are universally known as ‘swindles’. The Chips meet on Wednesday and the winner has to buy chips for everyone else. The Crisps meet on Thursday or Saturday and the one with the lowest score has to buy crisps. With anything up so 25 playing, that can be quite expensive and I tend not to play in it..

Once a year, the two swindles get together for a big tournament followed by a supper at which an special prize is awarded for the most garish shirt (these are grown men we’re talking about). This year we had 52 entries and we were drawn in pairs and went out in fours to play Stableford.

There were prizes for the best individual scores, the highest pair and the highest four and also a booby prize which invariably comforts me. In the end I scored 28 which put me comfortably out of reach of both ends of the leader board.

My partner was Geoff Diggle, a retired RAF squadron leader, who plays very smoothly off 14. Geoff spent 30 years in the RAF working his way up from a boy entrant. He was once a physical training instructor but spent much of his time training parachutists.

I didn’t realise that paratroopers in all three services are trained by the RAF and during his time he made 1,500 jumps himself. I figured that urging young men to throw themselves out of airplanes would call for a certain hardness of nature but he couldn’t have been more pleasant or encouraging or more tolerant of my mistakes — which included two air shots and the traditional shank into a bunker.

I wasn’t unhappy about scoring 28 but I know I could have done better. Geoff scored an excellent 38 and came third in the individual class. Another six points from me and we could have been contenders for the pairs prize.

The other two in our four was Mike Hennessy, with whom I shared a buggy because of my tired legs and his back, and Keith Billington, a retired engineer, who hit’s a long ball off 17 and narrowly missed the prizes with a 36.

Before the round we agreed to play for a pound for the better score. Mike scored 30 so we drew at 66 each so at least I saved my partner a pound. Geoff’s prizes included a bottle of port which he doesn’t drink so he gave it to me. That’s what I call an officer and a gentleman.

In the winter league last Sunday, my partner Dave Ellis and I were up against two players who’d both been at school with my son, James — Stewart Humphreys and Mark Davies who is known to one and all as ‘Chipper’.

Stewart plays of 9 and Mark off 19 and they had to give us seven shots but I thought they might have the edge on the day. The game ebbed and flowed and on one crucial hole, Stewart hit a boomer that finished in front of a bunker.

As we walked up I said :’That was one hell of a shot.’ Stewart replied: ‘Watch Chipper put it in the bunker,’ said Stewart. Chipper duly did and we won the hole.

Two holes later, Stewart hit another big one which finished a yard or so to the left of a bunker. I said he’d find it difficult to put that in the bunker. ‘Watch him,’ said Stew. Chipper put it into the far end of the bunker and we won another hole.

We were three up with four to play and looked certain to lose the next hole when Stewart’s chip flew across the green and into a bunker. It was an irony not lost on Chipper and we managed to get a half and held on to win on the last.

On the way back to the clubhouse, I asked Mark in all innocence: ’ Why do they call you Chipper?.

He looked at me in astonishment.:’ Your son gave me that nickname 25 years ago because I was so bad at chipping. Now everybody calls me it.’

My son has a habit of mocking poor chippers. He and I once met Dave Pelz, the renowned short-game expert who once had Phil Mickelson as a pupil. We were having a drtink with Pelz’s son Eddie when James said to him: ’ We have something in common — your father is the best chipper in the world and my father is the worst.’

My chipping is getting better and we may soon see how James’s skill with the wedge is faring. Once off 11, he has played very little over the past few years but is talking about a comeback when his duties as golf correspondent of the Daily Telegraph allow. We’ll see how much of a right he has to mock.

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