There could be no hanging about with the blog this week because I’m on the tee early this morning, in the home internationals at Little Aston, Ireland v England, the match that’ll decide the title. It’ll either be trolley pulling or watching and it’s likely to be a nerve-wracking and exhausting day for all concerned.
I like the idea of having the girls’ and women’s internationals played at the same venue at the same time but it takes a fair bit of organising and the host club has to know what it’s doing and embrace the event whole-heartedly. Fortunately, Little Aston has golf at its heart and is well used to big events. The home ints are not as big as they used to be – unless you’re involved with any of the teams, then it might as well be the Solheim or Ryder Cup, minus the crowds.
Little Aston, one of the best courses in the country, is not far from home – Dai and I wrote the club’s centenary history, with a lot of help from a dedicated band of knowledgeable members – and I need no second invitation to visit but I hadn’t expected to be swamped by memories this week. Goodness knows how many home international matches Mum and Dad attended, meeting up with Bill and Bob, from England; “the little women”, a group of Irish supporters from Dublin and beyond; benign, enthusiastic golf groupies who would ink in the date every year and travel to Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Royal St David’s, Carlow, wherever. It was a great annual get-together and the players loved it because they knew that it wouldn’t just be their family there, if they could get the time off but a crowd of old hands who’d seen them grow up and improve and were sympathetic, win, lose or draw, whatever the nationality.
The first person I met in the car park on Wednesday (after torrential rain had caused a delay of nearly two hours) was Janet Melville, a much-garlanded former British champion, now captain of the England girls’ team and not so fresh from a night in A&E with one of her players, who had to withdraw and head home to Norfolk. Gutting. It’s probably the hardest job in golf, being captain of a junior team, in loco parentis and all that. A rewarding gig but relaxing? Not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.
These days I’m old enough to be the players’ grandmother, so I was pleasantly surprised to realise that I knew not only Janet but several other captains, the odd manager and coach and loads of officials. We golfers are an enduring lot. But I’m beginning to agree with the late Dave Musgrove, who’d say, in that lugubrious, deadpan way of his, that what we played wasn’t golf. He caddied for the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle, so he was used to the outstanding but I don’t think I saw a single, solitary player here who didn’t give the ball a real tonk. The girls belt it miles, usually in the right direction and never even notice bunkers that cause me the utmost angst as I decide whether to risk the carry or lay up. Lay up is not a concept familiar to the modern breed of women golfers!
Well, the shipping forecast means that I’ve footered about into Friday again but if you’re in the vicinity of Little Aston, which is on the outskirts of Sutton Coldfield but affiliated to Staffordshire (hooray, lucky us), follow the yellow AA signs and come along and join the fun. You’ll see a lot of good golf and may even catch sight of a pioneering cycling referee, promoting golf’s green credentials – and his own fitness – by using pedal power.