Hackers’ last
hope for glory

With the possible exception of Gleneagles last weekend, the greatest Ryder Cup show of all will take place at The Glamorganshire golf club on Saturday.

It’s Wales V Rest of the World and is so hotly contested it is a wonder wars don’t break out as a result. But the special part of the day is that it doesn’t just embrace the top players — the worst players in the club also get their chance at glory.

The teams for our Ryder Cup comprise 18 a side — 14 on merit with four captain’s picks.

How all that works out is explained on the right of this page.

For obvious reasons, I am more concerned with the lesser lights who will be doing battle that day.

When the Ryder Cup was introduced in 1998 it was such an immediate success that the club felt that it should do something to involve the higher handicap players in the jollities of the day.

It so happens that my struggles to break 100 in a medal date back to the early days of our Ryder Cup and I had begun to write about it in my Hacker column in the Independent on Sunday.

An examination of our medal records revealed that I was not alone in being unable to get under the magic mark. More than 150 had failed to do so at least once in the season.

So they formed the Centurions and announced there would be an annual competition called the Centurion Medal to be held on the same day as the Ryder Cup.

Some of us were delighted, others were decidedly undelighted. Lower handicap players who had found themselves bringing in a score of 100 plus once or twice did not want to be bracketed with the regular hackers.

For the first year or so when the names of the Ryder Cup teams were put on the notice board the names of those who qualified for the Centurions were also put up.

There was an outcry from those who didn’t want their failures made public and the club were forced to discontinue the policy. The Centurions therefore remain anonymous apart from those of us who are happy to turn up to play in the competition.

What is remarkable in how the number of Centurions has increased over the years. This year the number of those who fail to break 100 has risen to about 22 per cent of those who enter.

And a new phenomenon has arisen — the number of ’no returns’ in each medal has shot up. There are bound to be instances in which a player loses his ball, decides not to bother to go back and play another and puts ‘nr’ on his card thereby voiding it.

Some players, however, are so frightened of returning a score in excess of 100 they ’nr’ to avoid the ignominy.

It is difficult to say how many ’nrs’ are genuine but the figures for the August medal are worth studying. A total of 177 took part in what were very tough conditions — with only four players breaking 80.

Forty players failed to break 100 but there were an astonishing 29 ’nrs’. Since this was the medal in which I recorded a career-worst 142 you would think it have been less painful for me to ’nr’ but I believe in facing up to my deficiencies no matter how humiliating.

Obviously, others don’t. It is a comfort to hackers, however, to know that scoring 100 or more is not uncommon. Indeed, our results show that around 22 per cent of those who playing in our medals this season have registered 100 or more at least once.

If you include the ’nrs’ in the figures then 33 per cent of those who entered failed to break the ton for one reason or another.

So the 70-plus who set out in the Centurions Medal on Saturday are not that rare a breed. We needn’t hang our heads in shame. At least we face up to our failings and we’ll be busting a gut to break 100 as usual.

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