There was consternation at Brancaster last weekend when the rump of golf writers gathered for the annual get-together in Norfolk realised that one of our trophies was missing. In fact, the most important trophy of all, given that it was the one we were competing for on the lovely links of Royal West Norfolk. It was donated many years ago by Pat Ward-Thomas, for many years the urbane if irascible golf correspondent of The Guardian and Country Life. He was also captain at Brancaster, hence the venue.
Pat, an RAF man, was a prisoner for most of World War Two and used golf to help him survive then earn a living post war. His autobiography Not Only Golf is well worth reading not least because it begins “not with an account of childhood but on a November night in 1940 when a single German anti-aircraft shell changed the course of my life.” He could turn a lovely descriptive, elegant phrase but the language that he didn’t commit to the page was colourful in the extreme, verging on bloodcurdling. If you ever find someone who knew him well, get them to tell you some of the stories, unexpurgated – but make sure the company is not of the genteel variety.
The son, aged about 4 or 5, of one of Pat’s colleagues tagged along for one round and increased his vocabulary immeasurably. When he came in, Jean, Pat’s wife, asked: “Did Mr Ward-Thomas use some naughty words?” “Oh, YES!” came the enthusiastic response.
My favourite tale, which I’m assured is true, sprang to mind last Saturday, on a glorious day that was perfect for golf. Pat’s game invariably fell well short of his expectations, a sine qua non for a Guardian golf correspondent and on the day in question, with the breeze barely a zephyr, the sky a cloudless azure and the turf well-nigh immaculate, his golf was not matching the perfection of the setting. After yet another execrable effort from a perfect lie, he looked around for some distraction, for something, anything, to blame. Even the skylarks had been silent but at last he spotted it, 40,000 feet up in the glorious blue expanse of sky: a tiny speck going blamelessly about its business.
Pat, shaking his fist at the distant speck, unleashed his frustration with typical, expletive-laden vehemence: “Blankety-blank blank RAF,” he roared. “Should have been blankety-blank blank dis blankety-blank blank banded blankety-blank blank years ago.”
As a point of information – facts usually being in short supply in this blog, so welcome at any time on any subject – the ceiling height for a Spitfire was 36,000 feet and its rate of climb was 2,500 feet per minute. For a Typhoon, ceiling height is 65,000 feet, rate of climb 62,000…..Blimey. They don’t hang about. Pity they don’t play golf round by us.
Anyway, back to that trophy. We had one of our number promise to look under his bed, on top of his wardrobe, anywhere, to root out where he must have left the trophy. The worthy winners had to make do with applause and praise and it was only on the drive home (that’s another story, as those of you who’ve made the journey across country from west to east will understand) that something began to stir at the back of my brain cell. Hadn’t I taken a photo of the trophy over at Maureen’s, where I’d taken it to show it off? So, didn’t that mean my partner and I (it’s a foursomes comp) had won it last year?……
I looked up last year’s blog and, yes, I had waxed lyrical about Brancaster and, yes, my partner (who wished to remain nameless) and I had won the trophy. Oops. Sorry. Mea culpa. It’s not under the bed, or on top of the wardrobe, or in the attic, or at the back of a cupboard but I’m hoping to find it at Mo’s.
The in-form Callanders, Jill and Colin, won with a magnificent 36 points, a mere 12 ahead of the next pair and I grovel and apologise profusely that they didn’t get presented with the silverware in the big room at Brancaster, as they deserved. Fingers crossed that the trophy IS in the back of a wardrobe at Mo’s!
One trophy that hasn’t (I hope) gone missing is the Curtis Cup, which GB and I won in grand style at Dun Laogharie last year. Elaine Farquharson-Black has been re-appointed as captain for next year’s match in the United States, at Quaker Ridge, with Helen Hewlett, nee Dobson, as the manager again. No team could be in better hands.
And last but by no means least, congratulations to West Runton for beating the AGW yet again in our annual match. Perhaps we’ll make a better fist of it on the 30th anniversary next year. Hope springs eternal.