The seniors are at Forest of Arden this weekend – today, tomorrow and Sunday, weather permitting – and I was going to wander over, see a few of the not-really-so-old-codgers that I knew a bit first time around, take some happy snaps and have a congenial day chatting, reminiscing, whatever. Sadly, the weather did not lend itself to anything but staying indoors listening to the rain hammering on the roof and accepting that it was the ideal time to do all those jobs that needed the outdoors to be spectacularly uninviting. I didn’t do them of course but they’re on the list…It seems that Peter Baker, always a favourite, is now 50 and the host of the Farmfoods European Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel and Country Club. He’s there with a load of other Ryder Cuppers, including winning captains Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Paul McGinley, a star-studded line-up by anybody’s standards. They’ve had great careers, great fun and they’re still going. Sam, who probably could never have imagined himself thinking such a thing, said that turning 50 was terrific and why wouldn’t ageing golfers love it? Colin Montgomerie, over in America, is winning majors at last and Bernhard Langer has been consistently grinding the opposition into the divots. No doubt their wives, quite a few of whom have been there for the duration, or as near as dammit, are relieved that their men are still hunched over on the putting green, obsessed with the game and outside, not cluttering up the sofa and wondering what to do with their retirement. I have a memory of talking to Sam’s father Bob, a great coach, in New Orleans – or was it that ghastly non-golf course near Atlanta, every hole a separate entity, every house a mansion on a tiny plot, an up-and-down route march of several miles that was a wonderful work-out pre the big Masters at Augusta? I think Bob was helping Woosie at the time and he was fascinating on the subject, though because he was so enthusiastic and speaking to someone he knew, it wasn’t always easy to catch his drift. I understood most of the words and some of the concepts and it still makes me smile and remember Bob fondly; sorry your knowledge was mostly wasted on me, Bob, but you did help me understand a bit more about the swing and golf at the sharp end, for which many thanks. It was always great to bump into you and June and have a chat.
There’s talk of a joint European tour event with the men and women next year but if it’s going to be a head-to-head affair, beware. I believe there were fisticuffs or, at the very least, full and frank exchanges, when the seniors played the women in Portugal in a season-ending “friendly” a few years ago. Sadly, I wasn’t there but it was matchplay and there was, I believe, a certain amount of disagreement about which tees should be used. The women won at the third time of asking and, funnily enough, that was that. At Whittington Heath we women play an annual match against the seniors – stableford matchplay playing off our own tees and card, which seems to work well enough in that the matches tend to be close – and it’s still going, probably because we always lose!
The LET, seemingly limping along, is hanging fire, apparently, on talks with the LPGA, the R&A and the European Tour but was making a presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Golf Group at Westminster the other evening. It’s never a bad idea to have friends in high places and the MPs are keen “to support the sport of golf” in all its forms. The LET is keen “to promote and develop golf for women and girls” and Mark Lichtenhein, the chair who is trying to hold things together and Trish Johnson, a player with impeccable credentials and vast experience, are in the forefront of promoting the cause.
Golf is either struggling or thriving, depending on which study you read and sometimes it’s doing both in the same place at the same time. Nothing’s set in stone and you have to tailor your club or your course or your tour to the circumstances but the game’s the thing and I guarantee it’ll be frustrating somebody somewhere in some form or another for as long as there are people tempted to swing a club.