We had our usual rowdy and raucous winter league presentation supper last weekend where among the prizes were a turnip and pot of apricot jam and the only slightly discordant note was a murmur of ‘pot-hunters’ when the winners went up to claim first prize.
Pot-hunters are not generally welcomed in winter leagues. While it is acceptable, desirable even, in the summer months for the hot-shots to go flat out for trophies, winter golf tends to be less competitive and more fun.
It certainly is at our club. The 70 or so foursomes pairs who contest our winter league are a mixed lot and while they go out to win every Sunday they can be quite philosophical about the result as long as they have a good game on a cold and frosty morning.
They don’t like to lose too many and risk the dreaded wooden spoon but they are a happy and contented lot .
The club takes certain precautions against pot-hunting. In the Snakes and Ladders, as it is called, there is a combined handicap limit of 20 per pair which means if a category one player wants to play he needs a high-handicapper as a partner.
This leads to a lot of talent spotting by the top players, sizing up newcomers who show signs of being better than their handicaps suggest.
One such predator is Peter Edmunds, known as ’Porky’ through his love of pork-pies, who plays off five and sizes up prospective partners with the same practised eye as Real Madrid examine potential transfer targets.
But this time he surprised us by going for an older partner, Dave Kent, a former captain who once had a handicap around the ten mark but has now risen to 18.
Kenty is like a lot of old timers at our club who play in every medal and gradually see their handicaps grow. I’ve been a 28 handicapper for seven or eight years and I’ve seen many blokes who are vastly superior to me acquire higher and higher handicaps without any commensurate loss in their ability.
At 28, I can’t go any higher and every year they creep up towards my handicap and I get fewer and fewer shots. But that’s a personal gripe.
The point is that Porky recognised in Kenty enough bandit material to succeed and they won nine out of their ten matches which is a praiseworthy achievement.
We need new partners in the second half of the Snakes and Porky will spend most of Christmas seeking his next partner for the January 5 start. When you are a pot-hunter there is no respite.
My partner, Dave Ellis, and I played Duncan and ‘Aitch’ in the final match and, having gone two up after two, fancied we were in for an early appearance in the bar.
But they won the next three and it was nip and tuck from then on and we finally managed to win on the first extra hole — by which time we were almost the last in the bar.
At least, it meant we had an average session, winning five and losing five, and well away from the wooden spoon battle which was a very nervy affair.
On the last day only one pair had only one win to their name, Maurice Flynn and Phil Cunningham. They needed to beat their opponents and score a good Stableford score.
Thanks to Maurice’s superior experience at these life or death struggles they did just that.
But their worries weren’t over. There were five pairs with only two wins to their name. In the event of a tie the Chief Snake, Peter James, has the final word and he is not renowned for his straightforwardness.
The wooden spoon presentation is traditionally the final evening of a night that was hilarious from start to finish. Peter is a former dentist who could have been a professional comedian. But he’s the next best thing to a professional comedian and keeps us roaring in the bar every Sunday.
But at the presentation supper he surpasses himself. He did a Two Ronnies skit with Big Al that brought the house down.
Then he paraded the five wooden spoon contenders and put them through agonies of suspense before whittling them down to two. He then staged his version of the Clapometre by getting the audience to cheer loudest for the pair they felt deserved the giant spoon.
The victims were Nigel Swaine, a builder, and Howard Morgan, a pharmisist, who were dressed in furry hats, false moustaches and with a baby’s dummies in their mouths. Their prizes were a turnip each, a pot of jam and a mouth organ.
At least the pot-hunters invariably avoid that sort of fate.