Hello everybody.  Happy New Year.  We’re back for a run at 2020 and the aim is the same as it always was:  to amuse and entertain our friends and ourselves.  Golf may well be a silly old game but it’s a great silly old game, linking a lot of people all over the globe, people who think and care about lots of other things vastly more important but still love golf.

It has never gone unnoticed that golf is a four-letter word and I remain indebted to the inestimable Dave Oswald, a Chelsea-supporting Scot (no one’s perfect) who was for many years the art editor at Golf World in the UK, for my lack of ladylike language.  We used to share an office in those far-off, like-it-or-lump-it days when sensitive little souls had to toughen up and give as good as they got – verbally in this case; the guys at Golf World were, whatever their faults, proper human beings.  And, of course, I’d been well trained in the art of smart-aleck repartee at the bar of Royal Portrush Golf Club and on the fairways at Portstewart.  Even when they should be, the Irish are rarely at a loss for words.

I haven’t made any New Year resolutions this year, having had more than enough years of failing miserably and depressingly; I’ve decided to accept myself as the flawed person that I am.  Perhaps I’ll improve my golf and perhaps I won’t; my language is another matter……And in any case, six-letter words are often just as satisfying as four-letter ones.

Chris Allsop holding a Christmas present like no other…….

What do you give the woman who has everything?  Chris Allsop’s son Mark gave his mother a dozen golf balls.  So? you say.   What’s so novel about that?  Well, he’d given it a lot of thought.  “Mum,” he said, “I know you want to hit the ball further and straighter and I’ve come up with the solution.   You’ll want to hit these balls as hard as you can, so they’re guaranteed to go further and they’ve got your name on them so you’ll keep them straight because you won’t want to lose them and have other people finding them.”

If you look closely, you’ll see that Chris is a woman after my own heart and is not a fan of our current prime minister Boris Johnson.  His image is on the ball and on the other side is a damning message that reads:  Property of Chris Allsop!  (I think there’s a middle initial in there but I’ve forgotten what it is and my courtesy ball is safely locked away in my locker.)  Look out for Allsop being all conquering in 2020.

I’ve already won a fiver this year, thanks to coming second in the 13-hole 3-ball Alliance on Tuesday.  It helps when you’re playing with Jayne Fletcher and Bev Chattaway, two of the best players in the club and feel obliged to make an effort to concentrate.  Three putts at the first two holes didn’t augur well but I holed a few decent putts later on and did my bit, thank goodness.  Jayne is a very good golfer but I think she’d agree that Bev is one of those multi-talented persons who seems to be good at everything effortlessly and accepts the twin impostors just the same (Kipling I believe).  It would be easy to dislike her but, then, it turns out that she’s lovely with it and you’ve had it:  you just have to like her.

I love playing with her because like Sue Spencer, another of our stand-out players, Bev has a lovely, smooth rhythm that is a joy to watch.  Just looking at her makes you better.  Some people you daren’t watch because their swing is too fast, too violent, too jerky, too quirky, whatever, to do you any good.  Unfortunately for Angela Bonallack, a sweet-swinging Englishwoman who played in numerous Curtis Cups, JoAnne Carner loved playing against her.  Carner, one of the legends of the game, tended to be a brutal fire-and-fall-back merchant who wellied the ball to great effect.  However, whenever she played Angela, she absorbed some of that smooth timing and was even more effective!

Bev Chattaway, smooth, balanced and controlled. If we’d had the technical nous, we’d have included the video!  As you can see from the netting the course is still a work in progress.

Bonallack and Carner were Curtis Cup opponents and this year the Curtis Cup is at Conwy in north Wales in the second week of June.  Get there if you can.  It’s a super golf course in a lovely part of the world and you’ll be watching players who’ll go on to be stars of the fairways.  Michelle Wie, for instance, played at Formby as a precocious teenager (is there any other kind?) and I saw her hit an iron shot there, low, into the wind, that made me realise what all the fuss was about.  It’s endlessly fascinating to see who goes on to make it as a professional and who follows a different course.  Wie, who has been blighted by injury, is now happily married and expecting her first child and still has golfing ambitions.  Go Michelle.

At the beginning of the year Sandy Lyle, one of Dai’s favourite golfers, who’d been on his radar for years as a Shropshire prodigy and Birmingham Post parishioner, was awarded the PGA Recognition Award for his outstanding contribution to golf.  Sandy, whose father Alex was a proud PGA professional, had a period as the best player in the world – acknowledged as such by no less an authority than Seve Ballesteros – and was the first Brit to win the Masters, in 1988.  Earlier, in 1985, he had been the first British winner of the Open since Tony Jacklin in 1969.  That was at Royal St George’s, where the Open is back again this July, for the first time since Darren Clarke won in 2011.

A big moment for Sandy and British golf.

Finally, just in case you’re wondering, the wee picture at the top of the piece features one of my Christmas presents and should ensure, with a bit of luck, that I never have to search for my glasses again!