From ghost writer to ghost partner

Hackers get used to losing golf matches; it goes with the territory. But when you drag someone else down with you it hurts — especially if the person concerned is a sporting super star.
Fair play to Jonathan Davies, he took it well. The rugby union and league legend, now a top television pundit, was probably expecting it, anyway, having a long knowledge of my golfing frailties.
The big consolation was that it was a brilliant day. Like most of the country, Royal Porthcawl last Wednesday was bathed in warm sunshine, with a clear blue sky and hardly a flicker of wind. The course was in superb nick as well. There was nowhere in the world you’d rather play.
I suspect, however, that by the end there were countless golfers in the world that Jonathan would have preferred to play with. I was dreadful even by my low standards.
Our opponents were broadcaster Ron Jones, currently captain of Radyr golf club, north of Cardiff, and John Dodd, my regular Porthcaw playing companion. They played so well they would have taken some beating and certainly not by someone playing virtually single-handedly.
We were three down at the turn and Jonathan had three birdies in four holes to bring us back to one down. I managed to come in only once — a half on the 12th. In the end, we lost three and one. If it wasn’t for my sparkling company I may as well not have been there.
I co-wrote both of Jonathan’s auto-biographies, the first when he left union to join Widnes for a world-record fee in 1989 and the second when he made history by becoming the first player to move from league back to union. I then wrote his weekly column in the Independent on Sunday for ten or more years. What a transformation — from ghost writer to ghost partner.
Yet it had been a very good start for me. A good drive down the first, an even better seven iron to the back of the elevated green and, with a shot, I was favourite to win the hole. And, but for a misunderstanding with my partner, I might have at least managed a half.
My first putt was short which, for some reason, led me to believe the greens were not as quick as I expected. Thus, my next putt, about 12 feet, went past about eight feet and Jonathan was not being very polite. Ron was already down for five and when my ball slipped past the hole Jonathan picked it up in disgust not realising I had a shot. I don’t know how far the ball would have rolled but had I holed it we would have had a half.
Jonathan said I should have told him I had a shot but since I was getting 14 it was a fair bet. Still, all I’d had to do was get down in three putts and we would have won the hole, so I didn’t have much of an excuse.
It didn’t do any good for my morale and the smooth swing that served me well on the first immediately deserted me and I struggled to recover any rhythm. Meanwhile, John and Ron hardly missed a fairway between them and the only saving grace was that we weren’t playing for money. That would have really pissed off my partner.
Jonathan plays a very good game off 12 but he was tending to hoick the ball left which is not very desirable at Porthcawl. However, he made some excellent recovery shots to keep us in the game.
Naturally, everyone was trying to help me get back on track and, apart from my usual trouble in keeping my head still, the consensus was that I was taking the club too far around my body on the back-swing. They said I should take it straight back along the toe line. Ron, whose son Alistair is a former Welsh amateur champion and is on a golf scholarship at a US college, recommended I think of American baseball and take the club head back into the catcher’s mitt.
This I did, and on the 15th I hit a screamer down the middle that was further than anyone’s. I then stuck a five wood into a nearby bunker. That’s what hackers do, unfortunately. But I was swinging better at the end which was some consolation.
‘Well played,’ I said to Jonathan. ’You deserved to be on the winning side.’
I recall I used to say that to him a lot when he played for Wales.’

4 thoughts on “From ghost writer to ghost partner

  1. I horoughly enjoyed your article and meeting you again at Penarth Rugby Club/ I wish I still played golf as I am sure I would have enjoyed a gane with you. I was warned many years that anyone with a handicap of more than 24 was to be viewed suspicion!!!

    Lets keep in touch

    John Cox

    PS I have told Bob Evans

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