The best players in the world – or a fair number of them – are in China this week for the initial-rich WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, a trading city well used to dealing with the rest of the world long before professional golfers were ever a gleam in anyone’s eye. It’s a place well used to the dramatic, so golfers flying in in spectacular style, dressed as super heroes or whatever, fitted in nicely.It got me thinking: if I were to design a golfer with all the powers, which bit of which players would make up the composite? Annika, Tiger and Jack were pretty good at most things but none of them was perfect, so how would you make up your very own super-hero golfer?
Where would you start? Easy, said my mate at the golf club: best driver, best long-iron player and so on. Oh, OK then, who’d you choose? He, a Staffordshire man, went for people he’d played with over the years and I reckon his selection, only one of whom became a professional (and won two major championships), could hold its own with more stellar names – at the very least the stellar names would have to play out of their spikes to come out on top and justify their super-heroic status.
Geoff Marks, late of this parish, would do the driving; Sandy Lyle, Open and Masters champion, would be in charge of the long irons; Dr David Marsh would be the mid-iron man – and who could question the nerve of someone who could hit the shot of his life into the 17th green at St Andrews with the Walker Cup on the line? [That may not sound like much but given the circumstances, not least GB&I’s woeful record against the Americans, it was immense.] Michael Bonallack, now Sir Michael, five times (British) Amateur champion, secretary of the R&A, among many other honours, would do the putting – look upon his works ye mighty and despair; he was so good that once, when he had a putt of 25 feet or so to take a match to the 19th, he was on his way to the 1st tee before the putt was halfway to the hole.
That leaves one position to fill: that of short game maestro, from 100 yards in. My man went unerringly for Ronnie Hiatt, who never played for England but was a Midlands, Warwickshire and Atherstone legend. Ronnie, a fitter at Massey Ferguson, with limited time off, didn’t really know how he did it but he had an unerring eye for distance – even his rare misses finished pin high – and his putting was in the Bonallack class.Here are some examples of Ronnie’s prowess: his opponent holes out of a greenside bunker and Ronnie follows him in. “Jammy so and so,” sezs the opponent, whereupon Ronnie puts his ball back in the bunker and holes out again. “The difference,” he said, matter of factly, “was that I was expecting to hole mine and you were trying to get yours close.”
Playing Marks (England, GB and I), who outdrove him by miles, in a county match, Ronnie was 50 yards short of the final green in two, with Geoff on the back of the green. Asked the state of the match, Ronnie said, “All square but I’ve got him.” He put his shot stone dead and it was Geoff who had to hole a nasty 4-footer for the half that gave Staffordshire the overall match.
Then there was the time Ronnie was playing for Whittington Heath against Copt Heath with the result hanging on his game. He was three up with four to play but his opponent had three birdies to square the match, hit a great drive 30 yards short of the last green, then watched as Ronnie, hitting a full 8-iron, holed out for a winning birdie 3.
Ronnie, who’s now in his 90s, also topped my informant’s best mental attitude category and was described as “the nicest guy you could ever play golf with”. Great stuff. I love being a captivated audience.
Ronnie won the Atherstone club championship so many times he’s in the Guinness Book of Records but when I tried to be good and double check that on the Guinness World Records website, I seemed to end up applying to set a record myself and was told it might take a few weeks to register because there was a very long waiting list. Aaaagh. Perhaps there’s a computer incompetence section because I also tried checking the Atherstone website for some facts and figures – and failed miserably to find what I was looking for.
Still, I did learn that “Atherstone is the only club in history to produce three Ryder Cup players……” Bernard and Geoff Hunt (sons of the club professional John) and Paul Broadhurst. Very impressive but even I, without any trawling of records, know that that proud claim is no longer valid. Thanks to Stephen Gallacher, who joined his uncle Bernard and the incomparable Eric Brown as a Ryder Cupper, Bathgate’s tally is also up to three.
Never forget that a website is like a baby: it needs constant attention!