Just in case your reserves of optimism are running low, I rooted out one of my favourite – and most battered – mugs, which features the Sousa quote:  “Dance as though no one is watching you.  Love as though you have never been hurt before.  Sing as though no one can hear you.  Live as though heaven is on earth.”

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was an American musician and composer renowned for his marches and in his heyday was one of the most famous performers at home and throughout Europe.  He was director of the US Marine Band for a dozen years, then formed the Sousa Band, recruiting players of the highest quality and playing an eclectic mix of music.  He believed in music for everyone, just like Helen Williams, the woman who keeps me trying to sing, struggling to undo more than 60 years of standing at the back and miming.

You can find Helen on YouTube under Helen Williams Soprano and because we can no longer get together in person, exhaling with gusto, she’s venturing into the world of virtual, long-distance choirs via Zoom.  Her project is called “Everybody Sings!” and we had our first joyous, slightly chaotic session yesterday morning.  The potential for chaos and technical glitches is what I love about Zoom – our bridge sessions rarely run smoothly (the king of clubs is a bugger for going missing; it’s amazing how often he disappears under somebody’s table or chair) – and it’s lovely to see people again, be they in their bedroom, kitchen, study, conservatory, shed, wherever.

Cherchez le roi

Only a profoundly deaf person with their back to me could mistake what I do for singing but fortunately Helen has us all on mute most of the time.  There was one ghastly moment when I realised that I’d unmuted myself and was giving dire voice to something but I consoled myself with the thought that it was brief and would have made everybody else feel like a Callas, a Sutherland, a Pavarotti, a helluva lot better about their own voice.

Golf, get to the golf, I can hear herself pleading, so I’ll do that.  I actually put the golf on, to watch a bit of the live – LIVE – coverage from Colonial in Texas.  Some of the best players in the world have emerged from their enforced hibernation and world ranking points are available, much to the chagrin of those players who don’t live in America or don’t want to travel out; quarantine; travel home; quarantine for however many days the current guidelines recommend/insist upon.  Seems a bit unfair but there you are.

It’s very quiet at Colonial with no spectators but you could hear lots of birds tweeting and I was delighted to see that Justin Rose was going a humdinger, rattling round in 63, 7 under par.  The Olympic champion is a bit of a hero to women golfers at the moment because he and his wife Kate are helping to fund The Justin Rose Ladies Series, a run of seven tournaments for women professionals in the UK, starting at Brockenhurst Manor next week.  There’ll be no spectators, so not much point telling you where they are – although the new, much-touted and very private JCB Country Club is on the list, so that might be worth a look – but Sky will be televising all the events.

I played by myself yesterday morning, first out at 0730, off the 10th.  It was grey and cloudy but dry – it didn’t start tipping it down until I was safely back home singing – and apart from the quality of the ball-striking, the lack of caddies, tour officials and telly cameras, it could almost have been Colonial.  There was no one there to cheer when I sank my pitch – beautifully judged for once, landing just where I wanted it to – for a birdie 3 at the 17th.

A rare bird for me at the 17th, rapturously received, as you can see.

It was 41 (FORTY-ONE!!!) years ago this week that Maureen won the Ladies British Amateur Championship at Nairn, beating Jane Lock of Australia in the final and quite by chance I found the card of the match the other day, sifting through my never-decreasing mound of paper.  “Don’t put that in the blog,” she said, “I don’t think the figures were very good.”  That hardly matters now – it didn’t matter at the time – but they look all right to me, with a couple of 2s on the back nine that came in handy, so you can judge for yourselves.  And, for added hilarity, have a look on Twitter where @BBCSPORTNI have unearthed footage of Mo talking about her win and what it means.  It’s priceless.

Mo versus Jane Lock, with Mo’s figures on the right. The other card is Dai and me playing Cypress Point in 1981, from the Walker Cup tees . The eagle-eyed will notice that my total is not in the frame. I faded badly on the 2nd nine and did not break 100….Ah well.

At least I’ve been there and played the course, however chronic the scoring – though wielding my trusty magnifying glass I think I can spot one of those par things in my column.  The green sweatshirt (below) has worn well, not even frayed around the edges and is still given an outing from time to time, usually when I know I’ll be playing with one of those obsessive collectors of courses who’s been nearly everywhere…….but not quite.

 

Just to say “I was there.”

Let’s finish with another Sousa quote:  “There is one thing that freezes a musician more than the deadliest physical cold and that is the spiritual chill of an unresponsive audience.”

So, perhaps there is something worse than no audience at all after all……