The Christmas season is fast approaching – in fact, it’s galloping along, and for a person who steadfastly refuses to hang a bauble or send a card while still in the eleventh month of the year I have to admit I’ve already broken all my self-imposed rules.  Full disclosure – last weekend we hosted Christmas dinner (yes, turkey and all the trimmings and plum duff) for fourteen.  This was largely my hubby’s branch of the family and it was a grand collective effort with everyone having an allotted responsibility, food, drink and preparation wise.  So, it all bowled merrily along and the house now seems strangely, and blessedly, quiet.  The most noise since the departure of our guests came from trying to manhandle the bottle recycling bin up to the gate for its next collection.

The reason I mention the festive season is to warn (reassure?) you all that this will be the final blog offering of the year and that we will be taking our annual break until sometime in……… well, who knows exactly when?

For me, this has been the strangest of years with zero golf interaction at any level for me.  No attendance at majors, no research to do, no interviewing players, no being abreast of all the unrepeatable swirlings emanating from the rumour mill.

I’ve been a stranger too long, missing my lovely friends at Delamere, not to mention the course – a classic Herbert Fowler design.

There’s been no interaction at club level either.  It’s now been thirteen months since I last played and with my golf club being forty minutes away it’s a little too much of a fatiguing drive for me to just pop by the club for a coffee and to see who’s around.  The result is that it’s been an odd (non) golfing year for me and my only connection with the sport that’s been a massive part of my life has been through a screen – either a television one or a computer one.

If you are a regular reader of the blog you will be aware there has been no movement on the instruction front either (ongoing joint pain), so I’m following my friend Mary McKenna’s advice.  “Remind all your readers to just look back at your tips over the winter!”  They are all there on youtube or just go to the Coaching tab at the top of the home screen if you fancy a quiet bit of golfing armchair meditation with a glass of something nice at your elbow..

Here’s hoping things are a little different next year.

The two players who lit up the LET this year – Maja Stark, left, and Linn Grant. [Tris Jones, LET]

I must say I did enjoy the denouement of the Ladies’ European Tour (LET), with the last event, the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de Espana, being played at Alferini golf club.  There was a smorgasbord of Swedish talent on display with Linn Grant and Maja Stark, two great friends and two great golfers, battling to the wire to see who would triumph in the season-long Race to the Costa del Sol.  In the end, it was Grant who, with a third place finish, scooped the Rookie of the Year title as well as the big Order of Merit one, with Stark runner-up and yet another Swede, Johanna Gustavsson, third in the season’s standings.

One of the main draws in Spain was Leona Maguire, the highest-ranked player in the field at world No 11. She was fresh off the plane from last week’s LPGA event in Florida  and jet-lag or no, she finished a highly creditable fourth, going on on Monday to attend a small Solheim Cup gathering down the coast at the invitation of captain Suzann Pettersen.  By now, I really do hope she’s got the feet up at home in Ireland and is enjoying a well-earned rest after a fabulous year.

Meanwhile, battling it out for the Spanish Open crown was yet another Swede, Caroline Hedwall, (top picture) four-time Solheim Cup player, who has found tournament victories a little thin on the ground over the last eight years.  Always an impressive ball striker she has become a little jittery on the shorter putts and admitted to wondering did she still “have it in her” to handle the pressure and win again.  Her questions were answered when she rolled in a fifteen footer for birdie on the fourth extra hole to deny the elegant Swiss player, Morgane Metraux, her maiden tour title.

Metraux is another to watch for captain Pettersen.  She has just completed her first season on the LPGA and has comfortably secured her card for next year.  Winning is her obvious next step and I don’t think it’ll take too long.

It’s “take your family to work” day for Suzann Pettersen as she scouts the course at the final event of the LET season. [Tris Jones, LET]

As the players are heading home for well-deserved rest and relaxation I’m looking to start gearing up a bit more if possible.  I decided I really did need to keep the grey cells in some sort of working order so I’ve done the training to become a Controller for the Staffordshire, Shropshire, and Cheshire Blood Bikers.  The Blood Bikers are a network of regional charities, run completely by volunteers offering a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service to hospitals and health centres.  The riders collect and deliver all sorts of samples and tissues all over their area (and frequently further afield).

My first shift will be on Friday December 2nd, the very day this blog is posted, from 7am until 1pm and I will (hopefully) be in control of 3500 square miles and up to seven riders from Shropshire, North Staffordshire, East Staffordshire and Cheshire.  This is arguably the most pressure I’ll have felt since I was on tour decades ago, so wish me well as you sip your morning cuppa!

The knights of the road – the Blood Bikers.

If I survive, and the riders survive, I’ll see you in the New Year.