No drenchings on the golf course so far this week but it’s been murky and foggy and not particularly pleasant; time to root out the mittens and hand warmers and the hair-crushing bobble hats. Fingers crossed for a bit of blue sky for today’s Friday Frolics Christmas Bash (Secret Santa included).
I thought I had it tough when I had to give 16 shots in a Round Robin match last week but Sue Spencer, one of our best golfers, an England international (senior division) and a sweet swinger, had to give an eye-watering 31 shots. Claire Hicks, her opponent, hasn’t been playing long but is proving a quick learner, hits the ball miles and uses a distance device, not for show but because she already knows how far she hits each club, a skill that still eludes some of us. Against Spenny she recorded her first gross eagle – a three on the par 5 2nd – and won 5 and 4.
Claire was a bit more wayward next time out and lost to the redoubtable Jenny Smale, who was only giving a shot a hole (!!) and admitted that she played damned near her very best. That’s one of the good things about the RR: you have to play well to win a match; it keeps the best players on their mettle.
There was some sad news earlier in the week when the PGA announced that Sandy Jones, their former chief executive, had died at the age of 74. Sandy, a Scot from Gartcosh, had a long and distinguished career in golf administration and was a fair player too. He never looked back after finding his mother’s old clubs stashed in a cupboard at home.
Dai and I played quite a lot with him and his – and our – great pal Bob Cantin. Every game they played was competitive and their long-running bet, with attendant bragging rights, lasted many years. I know the inestimable Pat Ruddy says there’s no such thing as a bad golf course but we were playing a particularly ghastly desert creation in Arizona and Sandy summed it up succinctly as “a waste of a perfectly good desert”. That still makes me smile. Condolences to his wife Chris and family and friends.In between watching World Cup matches and marvelling at some amazing results, not least Japan beating both Germany and Spain and England managing a draw with the United States, I flicked over to the golf and drooled over the pictures from the ISPS HANDA Australian Open. The men and women are playing on Kingston Heath and Victoria, two of the glorious courses that are part of Melbourne’s famed sandbelt.
Cameron Smith, the Open champion, now a LIVer, who won his national PGA title in Queensland last week, is the star attraction but admitted that his golf was “pretty shitty”. He had a 71, one over par, in tricky, blustery conditions, to be eight shots behind leader David Micheluzzi, a local who is starting to find his form after struggling with performance anxiety when he first turned professional. If he’s still ahead of Smith come Sunday, he could well be holding up the trophy.
Admittedly, I’m paying more attention to the surroundings than the players, enjoying seeing proper golf courses that require a lot of imagination and variety in the shot-making. It’s a positive joy after the dreary diet of smash and gouge that makes up so much of day-to-day televised golf. And how lovely to see natural-looking bunkers instead of traps. Blissful. (And being thousands of miles away, in a different hemisphere, I’m in no danger of having to play out of them.)
The sublime, world-class courses are one of the reasons that there have been so many outstanding Australian golfers over the years, whatever the state of the track they started on. There’s a lot of competition, of course and heroes to emulate, so the Aussies have always more than held their own on the fairways of the world.
Dai and I loved our trips to Australia and he used to say that if he’d discovered the place when he was 19 or 20, he’d have been an Australian. Here he is at one of our favourite places, Historic Court Barns in Tanunda, in the heart of the Barossa wine country, not far from Adelaide. He’s wearing shoes, so Elvis, the tame, wing-clipped galah, who preferred pecking at bare toes, has to make do with nipping fingers.
That pic reminds me that I’ve been neglecting my Australian friends, so I’ll root out the address book and make a real effort to send them all a Christmas card and thank them for all their kindness and hospitality over the years.
And thanks to everybody for reading Mo’s and my blogs throughout the year and encouraging us to keep going. Now that we’ve hit December, we’re signing off for the year and hope to be back in 2023, fit and firing. I’m off to wrap up my secret Santa and unwrap the Christmas decorations.