When a hacker goes on a bender

Even the very best golfers are apt to react violently when a shot goes wrong — Sergio Garcia threw a club into a lake in Thailand recently — so you’d think that hackers would be leaving a trail of destruction behind us considering the high number of anger-inducing errors we commit.
But hackers, especially the old ones, learn the hard way to control our infuriation and mainly confine our displeasure to muttering a few words from the Devil’s dictionary.
One of our opponents in the winter league yesterday, however, found it hard to subdue a mounting fury at his failure to keep his head down when executing a shot.
As a long-term sufferer from that malaise I have nothing but sympathy. It is a cruel and debilitating failing and if there is a cure patience is at the heart of it.
Unfortunately, patience does not come easily to a young man of 22 years of age although Tom Thorpe has already shown commendable discipline. He and his twin brother, James, were juniors at the club but later in their teens drifted to other pursuits.
Tom had a problem with his weight which rose above the 22 stone mark and has worked commendably hard to lose four and a half stone in two years. A year or so ago he and his twin re-joined the club and played so well in the winter league their handicaps were cut from 24 to 22.
In this session of the league, Tom is playing with Gareth Mason, another former junior, who plays off 14 and is hoping, with some justification, to get his handicap down when the medal season starts in the spring.
Our league’s format is foursomes and I was driving the odds with Gareth who smashed his first drive 80 yards or more beyond mine. They were giving us nine shots and I reckoned that was the least we needed.
My approach shot to our first hole bounced left off the frost-hardened green into a bunker and we were one down. We halved the next two and it soon became apparent that Tom’s uplifting head was not giving him a good day.
Gareth told me that the previous week Tom had no trouble and hit the ball very well but that’s the trouble with heads, they’ve got a mind of their own.
By the time we reached the sixth we were two up and halfway down this long par four, Tom’s temper got the better of him. After duffing a seven iron he picked up the offending club in both hands and, like a circus strongman, bent it in half and snapped the head off.
I did think of announcing a rule that if you damage a club you have to carry on playing with it but I wisely refrained and Tom cheered up when he sank a putt for a half on the next.
He then hit a very good tee shot that finished just short of the wide brook that crosses the fairway but it was then Gareth’s turn to fluff a shot which plopped into the brook.
That mean that my partner Bob Colley and I were four up without doing much but just hacking steadily around.
While we having a bacon roll at the halfway house, Tom spoke mournfully about being four down with eight to play when I reassured him with the news that we were four up with four to play two weeks previously and we lost.
I should keep my big mouth shut. We were only three up two holes later and, with Tom’s showing a distressing tendency to keep his head still, were only two up with four to play.
There’s nothing worse for hackers than to feel a good lead sliding from beneath their feet but we hung on to halve the next two holes to be two up with two to play. But both were shot holes and we managed to halve the next and win by two up.
It was the nine shots and Tom’s head that won it for us and since we have now won three out of six with four to play, the shadow of the wooden spoon is receding.
In the bar afterwards — Tom was on the diet Coke as befits a serious dieter — we were discussing the difficulty of keeping your head down when I suggested that instead of breaking his seven iron he should break his neck and wouldn’t be able to lift his head. He is much too nice a lad to take offence.

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