It’s hard to miss a castle if you’re in north Wales, which is more or less the fault of Edward I (1239-1307), completing a scheme he inherited from his father Henry III and adding his own amendments and improvements, in an attempt to keep the Welsh in order. I’m indebted to the website castlewales.com (which is indebted to any number of learned historians) for anything approaching a fact on this matter and I did a lot of looking up at the castle when we were playing Harlech the other day.
The golf club, several centuries younger than the castle, was established in 1894, in the reign of Queen Victoria and the first name on the honours board is James Braid, one of the great triumvirate (along with Vardon and Taylor), golfing royalty indeed. He won a “Professional Tournament” in 1903, no names, no pack drill but undoubtedly there would have been money handed out at the end. It was scary how many of the winners we knew between us – I even saw Cecil Leitch, winner of the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship in 1926, in the flesh when she presented the trophy to Cathy Panton at Silloth in 1976….
A round at Royal St David’s Golf Club, to give it its official title, is always a treat and it was a lot less windy and the rough was a lot less penal, in a relative sort of a way, than the last time I played there. Steve, the pro, is from Newcastle, Co. Down; we were playing with Pam Valentine, a good friend who’s a member (such a good friend that we forgive her for supporting Liverpool); the weather was benign; the castle peacefully hosting visitors from England and elsewhere; and we could scarcely have had a more enjoyable day, slow pace of play notwithstanding.
It gave us time to chat and enjoy the views (though Snowdon itself was hidden by cloud) and Mo admitted that during her years on tour she’d been guilty of paying little or no attention to her surroundings. That’s the trouble with professionals, they have to be obsessively single-minded (or feel they have to be) to be successful. Still, I challenge anybody to fail to notice the beauty around them when they’re playing up in the mountains at Crans-sur-Sierre, in Switzerland.
Dai and I used to love going to Crans, where the golf course is right in the middle of everything, a bit like an Alpine St Andrews and there was always a special buzz when Seve Ballesteros and co were in town. The course, a skier’s playground in the winter, has its quirks but it has been a fixture on the schedule since 1923 (starting as the Swiss Open) and the list of champions reads like a veritable who’s who of world and European golf: Bobby Locke, Kel Nagle, Bob Charles, Dai Rees, Seve (several times), Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia, to mention just a few.
Now Rasmus Hojgaard, a 20-year old Dane with talent to burn, has added his name to the list, winning this year’s Omega European Masters with a final round of 63, seven under par. It was his third win on tour and only Matteo Manassero and Seve managed to win that many at a younger age. “I’m very proud,” Hojgaard said. “With some of the players who have won it, it’s very special. It’s an amazing place and I can’t wait to come back again.”We’re now gearing up for a splurge of Solheim, defined as “any boisterous or extravagant display”, which should just about cover our behaviour as we spectate at home, showing appalling bias and a distinct lack of decorum as we cheer on Europe. The neighbours have been warned. Let’s hope it’s a good omen that Europe’s Junior Solheim Cup team, captained by Annika Sorenstam, stunned the Americans with an amazing comeback, winning the singles 9-3 to snaffle the trophy for the first time since 2007 and for the first time ever on US soil. Brilliant effort everybody. Inspirational. It’s a good thing that there’s no premier league football this weekend, so I won’t be torn between savouring the Solheim in comfort or schlepping down to north London to watch Spurs. Last Sunday I headed off again, for the game against Watford, clutching my season ticket (it’s on the phone somewhere, along with proof of my COVID vaccinations and I live in fear and dread of losing them altogether, of them vanishing in to the ether or some sort of black hole of lost connections).
There was more method than madness in the planning this time: drive to Milton Keynes station and get a coach to the ground, letting someone else take the strain. Only problem was that no one at MK Central knew anything about my coach or the bus stop it was supposed to go from…Still, I’d given myself plenty of time for once, didn’t panic, bought a coffee and a croissant and after a reconnoitre or three settled on the only possible pick-up place.
By this time, two other pedestrians had turned up, one with some sort of massive kitbag that ruled him out of a supporter’s role, the other, oh happy day, with a clear plastic duffle bag with a cockerel on it….He turned out to be John from Derby and he was indeed waiting for the Spurs coach. An old hand at this trekking-to-Tottenham lark, he was kindness itself, took me under his wing and made sure I didn’t get lost.
It turns out he has three season tickets: one for Spurs, one for Derby and one for Burton!!! Not altogether surprisingly his partner plays golf.