Perhaps it’s an age thing but I’ve lacked what might be called focus this past week. Admittedly, focus has never been one of my strong points – I blame my mother for my butterfly mind, flitting here, there and everywhere but at the great age of whatever it is I have just become, it’s a bit of a cop-out to keep blaming your parents, no matter what Philip Larkin might have written.
Belatedly perhaps, I looked up “focus” in my trusty Chambers dictionary – one of those old-fashioned book things – and realised that it was never liable to be one of my strengths. Here’s a sample: “a fixed point such that the distances of a point on a conic section from it and from the directrix have a constant ratio (geom); a point in which rays converge after reflection or refraction, or from which…they seem to diverge (optics)…….”. I never knowingly studied optics but I did once get 75 per cent in a geometry exam and I didn’t cheat; it was a fluke of epic proportions, never to be repeated, though I did pass maths O level in the days when it consisted of separate papers in geometry, algebra and arithmetic.
Eventually, hidden in the small print were the words “to concentrate”. At last. That’s what I thought I was meaning.
Does being 3 up with 4 to play and losing the 15th, 16th and 17th indicate a lack of concentration or a lack of skill or a doughty opponent playing well? Or a combination of all three, plus a lack of fitness? When you’ve been trying to play golf for as long as I have, you know that anything can happen and take nothing for granted. Six up at the turn? All over bar the handshake, surely? No way. If I can win six holes in such short order, I’m damned sure my opponent can. And there was one excruciating occasion when he did.
I was playing one of the brothers-in-law at his home course and was 6 up very quickly, playing gratifyingly well, much to my surprise and delight and his horror. In those days he wasn’t much of a golfer but he was always a competitor and a grafter – still is – and I wasn’t that good, so he clawed all the holes back and might even have gone 1 up. I tried not to panic but the situation was dire.
If I lost this match, I’d have to give up golf; there was no way I could ever have appeared on a 1st tee anywhere ever again. The ignominy was beyond imagining. He was that bad.
I tried a bit of gamesmanship but, though I’d been well trained in the Stephen Potter dark arts, my heart wasn’t in it, not least because my man, versed in the art of coarse rugby, recognised it for what it was and laughed it off. I was a woman scorned – and increasingly desperate. He holed an outrageous putt, downhill, for a par 3 at the 17th and I had to hole a nasty, slippery 5-footer across the slope for a half. Looking back, it might have been the best putt of my life.
And those Ryder and Solheim Cuppers think only they know what real pressure is!
It was getting dark by this time and, praise be, I won the last because he hoicked his third shot well left of the green into a massive hedge and never found the ball. Face saved.
I tripped over the missing ball as I made my way to the car park but my conscience remained clear because it was so close to the hedge that it was unplayable; even so it was many months before I returned the ball to its owner……
There’s really nothing as nerve-wracking as matchplay.
James Sugrue, from Mallow, county Cork, who has just won the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock, was 5 up after 9 in the 36-hole final against Euan Walker of Kilmarnock Barassie and 3 up after 18. By the 33rd hole it was all square and Sugrue admitted he was worried. However, he regained the lead with a par 4 at the 35th and was conceded the last when Walker got into bother.The Women’s Amateur at Royal County Down was another tense affair, with Emily Toy, from Carlyon Bay in Cornwall, beating Amelia Garvey of New Zealand by one hole. Good luck to Toy and the rest of the Great Britain and Ireland team who today take on the Continent of Europe in the biennial Vagliano Trophy at Royal St George’s in Kent. It’s a big ask for Elaine Ratcliffe and her side because the Europeans have won the last six matches and GB and I last won at Chantilly, near Paris, in 2005.