It has been a long time since I put pen to paper (or, rather, finger to keyboard) to describe the continuing saga of my bad golf. The absence has been due to a mixture of illness and fatigue — I was sick and tired of it.
For 15 years or so I had been banging on about the burden of being a bungling oaf on the golf course, of how I’d failed to break 100 in a medal during all that time.
My weekly woes had started as a column in the Independent on Sunday and when they threw me out three years ago I switched it to this website mainly because I felt I had a duty to the many lost souls who told me they were comforted by the knowledge that there was someone suffering even worse than they were.
But by May this year, when I started comparing my lot to that of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, it was clear that I was cracking up. There is nothing wrong in pointing out that golf is such a great game there can be similarities between those at the very top and us at the very bottom. But I was running out of straws to clutch at.
The truth is, I was always hoping for a breakthrough. Although it may have seemed at times that I was revelling in my uselessness — some even accused me of playing badly on purpose so I had something to write about — there was a genuine ambition to become a better player….. The ugly duckling turning if not into a swan then into a better-looking duckling.
There is a strain in trying to say something fresh about the same subject week after week and I would stare at the blank screen on a Monday morning and eventually say ’F— it’ and go and read the paper.
I decided I would wait until something positive happened to me on the course before I would venture to trouble my readers again. Sadly, the picture of pointless endeavour failed to improve.
I once had thousands of followers but gradually they have dwindled away. The records show that they kept checking with the site but months of no fresh columns subdued their interest.
I’ve had letters, emails and texts enquiring as to my whereabouts. My fellow club members have almost stopped shouting ‘where’s the bloody hacker’ when I walk in the bar.
Two things happened recently that persuaded me to tap out another hacker and will, perhaps, return me to the weekly inquest into my inadequacies.
This has always been a words-dominated site but a year ago I introduced a rare picture. It was a statue of a frog playing a violin. Not an item of beauty, I grant you, but a nice little cameo and one deemed suitable to give me as a booby prize.
The occasion was the annual prize day of the Chips and Crisps, two mid-week swindles that involve about 50 members. In the Chips, the winner buys chips for everyone else; in the Crisps, the loser buys crisps for everyone else. Don’t ask.
Every November, the founder and organiser Charlie Caldwell holds a golf day when we go out and play for an enormous number of prizes for individuals, pairs and teams of four. The prizes are both generous and inventive, no more so when it comes to the booby prize.
Last year he produced this frog when I came in last. Not one to be churlish, I didn’t dispense with it but suggested to Charlie that it was such a good booby prize it should be presented every year.
So this year, I stuck it in a Tesco bag and handed it back to Charlie with the words: ‘There’s no way I want that bloody thing back again.’
Off I went with my allocated partner Richard Salt and the two other members of our four-ball, Mike Hennessy and Alan Duncan.
Unfortunately, Mike’s back started giving him trouble early on and by the eighth he could go on no longer. This was a shame, not only for him but for me he as was showing all the signs of finishing with a score lower than mine.
Actually, he would have been hard pressed to do that because I found it so difficult to score. My partner, Richard, was burning it up and went on to score 40 points, only one point short of being the overall winner.
I was a dead loss as a partner, although he was too polite to say so. I didn’t play atrociously, in fact I drove the ball quite well, but when I reached the green my putter turned to putty in my hands.
On most greens, I was failing by only one shot to get among the points but that’s no excuse for coming home with a pathetic score ten points. As I said at the presentation, it could have easily been 11 or 12.
The frog was duly returned to me, along with a massive golf ball, which they said I’d have more chance of hitting, three balls, a miniature bottle of Hendricks Gin and a set of tee-pegs in the shape of a naked lady.
The frog is now on the mantelpiece as a daily reminder of my disgrace. Every other attempt to improve my game having failed, perhaps shame will prove my spur