I was reading something the other day and it made me realise that I haven’t a clue, couldn’t even hazard a guess, as to how many courses I’ve played in a long and largely undistinguished golfing life. Well, that’s not quite true, a lot of the courses and some of the playing partners have been distinguished in the extreme, so perhaps there’s distinction by association….
Anyway, the person who wrote the piece had just chalked up his 750th course and it transpired that there were quite a few of his readers who were galloping towards 1500 and more. They all seemed to have meticulously documented their rounds, how they’d played, who they’d played with, what the weather was like, how many pitchmarks they’d repaired, the works. Blimey, how casual had I been! I used to collect the scorecards, intending to file them neatly but eventually I accepted the inevitable and got rid of all but a few. There are enough boxes of photographs to sort without adding to the clutter and guilt mountain.
The first course I played will have been the Old Course at Portstewart, the wee course, which is still going and is really the sort of place you should play wearing a helmet. The first few and last few holes are squeezed into a narrow strip of land between the sea and the main road into town from Portrush and when you’re a beginner or an occasional player, you soon learn what Fore! means and how to shout it loudly and duck quickly. You wouldn’t be allowed to build it now.
The most recent course I’ve played is Whittington Heath, where, after nine holes, I thought I might be in with a chance of winning the Tripp Trophy. Who knows where the decent scoring came from? My training consisted of loading several sacks of soil into the boot of the car to take to the tip post golf. I must have engaged what passes for my core effectively enough because I was able to walk and swing the next morning. Perhaps the low expectations helped. The back nine, as the temperature rose into the highs 20s centigrade, not ideal for someone brought up on Ireland’s windswept north Atlantic coast, saw my scoring rise too. Triples and doubles proliferated and thoughts of glory evaporated. Ah well, gallons of tea and an egg mayo sarnie restored what passes for my equilibrium.
I went to the tip via a posh dress shop that I only dare visit during the sales and came away empty-handed, with my credit card and nails intact. The card survived the rest of the day ok but the nails suffered soil and rubble damage because I’d forgotten to take the gardening gloves with me and dumping all those bags was not a white collar job. I was revived with tea, wine and chat at the in-laws round the corner – and came away fortified with home-grown string beans and, even better, the best raspberries I’ve had for years. Janet and David haven’t been wasting their time on the allotment.
Moving on to proper golf, it’s lovely to see that Rory, weighed down with dollars and kudos after his victory at East Lake last week, is playing at Crans-sur-Sierre, giving the Omega European Masters an extra sprinkle of stardust. I always think of Crans as a magical place. It was one of Dai’s and my favourite venues – even though I could never quite afford one of the Max Mara coats I coveted. Rory is there with his wife Erica and her parents and that’s just perfect; it’s that sort of place. The golf course is right in the middle of things, so if you’re there with a non-golfer, you have no need to worry about them – unless they’ve got your credit card.Rory, who’s got his sights set on overtaking Brooks Koepka as world No 1, will be playing in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth towards the end of next month and has also signed up for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship the following week. If you get a chance to see him play in the flesh, do; he’s a special talent. (Which reminds me, I should really be heading up the road to Derby to watch Steve Smith bat for Australia. He’s another one of a kind. Ben Stokes, I hope, is having the week off.)
Keeping track of what golf’s on where is a full-time job and hard for a part-timer like me. Did you know, for instance, that the Astor Trophy is taking place in Canada as I write? It’s played every four years and when Maureen played in it, it was called the Commonwealth Trophy but that changed and now GB has become GB and I and they’re taking on Canada, Australia (the defending champions), New Zealand and South Africa at Royal Colwood GC in Victoria, British Columbia. Olivia Mehaffey, Lily May Humphreys, Emily Toy and Alice Hewson sat out the first day but will be in action (foursomes and singles) from now on. They’re playing South Africa first and I eventually found some details (via randa.org) on something called golfcanada.bluegolf.com. As for the state of all parties, well, I’m sure I’ll work it out, given time. It seems to be a thing of the past to start with the day’s results and work from there….
Over in Oregon, many of the world’s best women professionals are playing in the Cambia Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. A lot of the players are trying to hone their games for the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles next month, including Marina Alex, the defending champion and Suzann Pettersen, whose golf disappeared off the radar after she gave birth to her son more than a year ago. The Norwegian was champion in Portland in 2013 and 2011, so the vibes should be good.Closer to home – and gleaming at the top of the page – there’s the Jacques Leglise Trophy (GB and I under-18 boys v Europe) at Aldeburgh Golf Club and the oldish codgers (50 and over) of the Staysure Tour are contesting the Sinclair Invitational at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel and Country Club in Hertfordshire, where Joakim Haeggman, the first Swede to play in the Ryder Cup – as one of Bernard Gallacher’s picks at The Belfry in 1993 – is making his senior debut after turning 50 a couple of days ago.
He hasn’t played competitively for several years and spent time as a sales rep for John Deere in Sweden but decided he’d like to have another go at competitive golf and has been in training since last November. “It’s great to see everyone again and have a chat,” he said. “I think the Staysure Tour will offer me a lot of enjoyment, a chance to play golf and hopefully I’ll be able to make a living out of doing this. I’ve said to myself I’ll play this year and then at least a couple more years, so we’ll see where I get to.”
Good luck Joakim. Play well.