It’s a very weary blogger who sits before her keyboard, aware that there’s unlikely to be enough golf in this piece to satisfy the sister. Golf usually requires a bit of research and because I was playing in a club match I’ve only caught a few glimpses of the first day of the AIG Women’s Open (even had to check the title after years of inserting a British somewhere along the line) at what looked like quite a benign Carnoustie, if chilly, judging from the bobble hats and waterproofs on show.
At one Open there, there was a wonderful aerial photo of the last two or three holes, three of the toughest finishing holes you could ever wish to play with anything more than a few quid or some beers on the line. I thought, “Great, I’ll study this pic and work out how to play those holes”, factoring in my limitations of course. I looked and looked and looked – and still had no clue how any vaguely normal being could negotiate them with any certainty. I think Justin Rose birdied the last, a brutal par 4 as many will attest (pas de noms, pas de drill de pack), all four days the year Francesco Molinari won.
Ben Hogan travelled to Scotland early and spent two weeks absorbing every aspect of the course prior to his comprehensive Open victory in 1953. He finished four shots ahead of his fellow American Frank Stranahan, an amateur, Dai Rees, Peter Thomson and Antonio Cerda (blimey, some research!) – a Welshman, an Aussie and an Argentine who were no joke when it came to golf.
Harold Riley, the artist who is one of Salford’s most famous sons, then 18, walked every step of the way with Hogan (I think), sketching, awestruck and recording his admiration for posterity.
From the sublime to the faintly ridiculous. The main reason I’m cream-crackered is that I trekked down to north London (from Lichfield) on Sunday to watch Spurs play Manchester City in the first league match of the season. They increased the seating capacity at the swanky (see my pic at the top of this piece), state-of-the-art (but far from glitch-free) Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (think that’s the official designation, it’s certainly no longer White Hart Lane), so I bought myself a season ticket. It was now or never and there are some advantages to being an old codger, such as getting seats half price.
I mulled over the travel options, decided against risking Sunday trains and opted to drive….I chose the M6, M1 (is there a reason why the exclamation mark is above the 1!!!?) It was a route I used to travel regularly but that was decades ago and nowadays I go to great lengths to avoid the M1. To begin with, all went well, then there was a delay at junction 11a where there’d been some sort of prang and we crawled along for a bit because of the lane closure. I don’t know how serious the accident was but on reflection missing a football match would not rank as the worst thing to happen on a Sunday.
By this time, I’m wondering if I’ll make the 1630 kick-off and stop at something called the London Gateway to stretch out my aching bones, go to the loo and ponder the rest of my route. Mostly I like to do it the old-fashioned way, with a map, only using the phone (my car is too aged and basic – it has wheels and an engine – to have a built-in sat-nav). Mo once threatened to buy me some sort of directional gizmo for Christmas but I put her off, insisting that was the equivalent of buying me an iron and an ironing board.
Anyway, I decided against the M25 and renewed my acquaintance with the North Circular. The last time I was on it, heading home from a game at Royal Mid-Surrey, I exulted in the thought that I’d be dead before I had to use it again. Bits of it ran ok but there was a lot of stop start and I eventually bailed out down to Wood Green (are you getting the impression that this was not the most meticulously planned excursion?) By the station I saw a load of people in Spurs shirts making their way up the hill so I took a left, another left and another left and found a parking space. The phone was called upon and lo and behold I was about 150 yards from White Hart Lane. Miracle of miracles.
Off I trek and am starting to worry that I’ve got my 50-50 chance wrong and turned right when I should have turned left (by Dai’s reckoning I got 90 per cent of my 50-50s wrong), when I spot two people getting out of a car, one in a Spurs shirt. “Are you going to the match?” sez I, feeling suitably pathetic. “Yes,” they say. “Where is it,” I say, feeling even more pathetic.
They point in the direction I was heading (phew!) and say that it’s quite a long way. “Fifteen minutes?” (hoping they’re not great walkers). “More like thirty.” And off they stride, having assured me that it was straight all the way. I thought of John Jacobs when I realised that at least getting back to the car was just like the golf swing: two turns and a swish.
I got there with half an hour to spare but several queues (nothing seamless about electronic ticketing in my seat’s neck of the woods) and a lot of swearing (not me, there were plenty of others willing to do that and the man next to me had two children with him) later, I found my seat, several minutes after kick-off. City were battering our goal but we survived somehow and went on to win 1-0. “Fantastic,” messaged a friend in Ireland, “worth the price of the full season ticket.”
And she was right.
Going home I took the A10, A14, M6 – it rained a lot of the way – and staggered in the door, exhausted but exhilarated at 2300.
Still, alternative travel arrangements are on the agenda and it turns out the young man in the farm shop has a brother who is a Spurs season ticket holder and goes to every home game…..