The curse of hackerdom spreads its net over many levels of society. All manner of professions and trades, of high intellects and low cunning, are to be found in the ranks of those whose golfing ability is rated among the worst to be found.
Indeed, there are those who maintain that more natural intelligence is to be found among the lower echelons of the game than among the highest.
However, this view is a generalization that doesn’t find favour among the better players so it is best left to be discussed on another day while we examine the fascinating variety of backgrounds included in our winter league which, I am sure, is replicated in thousands of clubs around the country.
Last Sunday was the final day of our ten-week pre-Christmas session and the winners were top local cricketer Peter Docherty, a telephone engineer, and his partner Dan Bird, an IT project manager who was also the club‘s most improved player of the year — a title I hope to bid for in 2013 as I have done for many years past. I know it’s a big jump from being the least improved player of the year but I am determined to do it.
But it was down at the foot of the league that the real suspense occurred and it looks as if, for the first time in the 60 years history of the competition, one of the winners of the wooden spoon is going to be a professor.
Mike Lewis carries that title as Dean of Dentistry at the University Hospital of Wales and he sportingly sacrifices all the kudos that goes with that role to become a hacker like the rest of us. Whatever we do off the course, we all willingly surrender ourselves to the service of a game that thrives on our struggles.
Among the 140 or so souls who brave the elements every Sunday morning throughout the winter are solicitors and plumbers, consultant surgeons and roofers, bankers and builders, fishmongers and financiers, accountants and street-cleaners, printers and market traders and more teachers and dentists than we deserve.
But once we are out there, dressed mostly like deep-sea trawlermen, we are not defined by our callings but by our clumsy attempts to avoid the humiliation that comes with the wooden spoon.
We have two splendid spoons, once for each of the winter sessions. They are over four feet long and purchased fifty years ago from the back of a donkey in Spain. The spoons are displayed prominently in the bar and on their sides are small brass plaques bearing the names of the wretches who won them.
I can’t believe my name is only on them twice. Others have not been so fortunate and at the Snakes and Ladders supper this weekend another two will be added. The driving force in the competition is less the attraction of the winners’ podium than the fear of the spoon because, added to the general ignominy, is the dread of having to make a speech in front of a raucous and utterly unsympathetic audience.
But although we suspect that Mike Lewis and his father-in-law, Jim Borland, are the winners we won’t know for certain until after the supper. They are the only pair not to have won a single game but it is within the chief snake’s power to award it to a pair he considers more deserving of the disgrace.
When I was chief snake 25 years ago I often picked on unsuspecting victims for an action I considered unsporting but the present incumbent, Peter James, may well not resist the temptation to give it to a professor.
This will be particularly unfortunate for Mike’s partner, Jim, who has recently moved down from Dundee to be near his daughter’s family. Jim, who is 79, previously played at the Carnoustie Mercantile club and there would have been times over the past few months when he wished he was back on the banks of the Tay as they floundered in their search for a victory.
Among those who will be fearful until the decision is announced will be Mike Hennessy and Maurice Flynn, a retired headmaster who is no stranger to wooden spoon territory.
My partner, Dave, and I played them on Sunday and since we had won twice we were just outside the range of the spoon. But Mike and Maurice had only one once and if they lost and the professor won they would have been joint bottom.
As it happened, they did lose but so did the prof and Jim. The only snag was that Mike and Maurice had to mark a card in the event of a tie which meant, although we beat them 5 and 4, we had to play the full 18 holes to complete the card.
We didn’t mind the longer walk — at least we were safe.