Apologies to those of you who are having a bad or a shitty week but I’m having a rather good week – so far.
Last Friday, the weather was kind when we played at The Northumberland Golf Club/Gosforth Park Ladies Golf Club, where the course crisscrosses Newcastle Racecourse on several occasions. There was an evening meeting scheduled but we didn’t have to watch out for flying hooves – the bunkers gave us more than enough trouble, though I did finish with a majestic par 4 (on the green in regulation, not a regular occurrence) at the last in front of the venerable old clubhouse.
That same day in St Andrews, at 0800, quite a bit earlier than our tee time, there was a cannon start (why on earth are LIV, the ultimate big timers, still mucking about with a poxy shotgun?) And Clive Brown, the pride of Wales, drove himself in as captain of the R and A. Clive, capped 65 times for his country, admitted to being very nervous and there was a sizeable crowd gathered to witness one of his proudest moments. He qualified as a chartered accountant, a breed Maureen and I hold dear to our hearts thanks to Dad and Brian and lives in Conwy, north Wales, also dear to our hearts, so we think he’s an all round good guy, a very acceptable face of the establishment.
It’ll have been a bittersweet moment because his lovely Mum Elsie died in August at the age of 98. Among many other things she was the vice captain (not 100 per cent sure of her exact title) of the GB and I Curtis Cup team that made history at Prairie Dunes in 1986, a wonderful foil for the formidable captain Diane Bailey. Belated condolences to Clive, his wife Christine, sons Graham and Benjamin and all the family. Clive came close to that moment of glory when he captained the Walker Cup team that beat the Americans, including a largely ineffective Tiger Woods, at Royal Porthcawl in 1995.On Monday, in a howling gale, I played Wallasey for the first time (shameful to take so long), where Dr Frank Stableford (on the plaque at the top of the piece) devised his eponymous system, for which we hackers remain eternally grateful. There’s another plaque on the 2nd tee, which is, apparently, where he decided that something had to be done…He’d probably run up a big number (not an inelegant phrase he’d have used, I suspect) at the 1st, lashed his drive at the 2nd into the boondocks and thought, “Sod this for a game of soldiers…” The first Stableford comp was held at Wallasey on 16th May 1932.
By some miracle I had 32 points, well adrift of Colin Harding, who won the Ron Moseley Memorial Salver with a magnificent 38 points, one ahead of Denis Kirwan. It was, as someone said, attritional, brutal, the sort of weather that made you realise that golfers may be mad but wind surfers are stark, raving bonkers.
On the short 12th, stroke index 18 (!!!), where there’s a plaque telling you that you are playing one of the four original greens laid out by Old Tom Morris, I hit a cracking shot but it was a fraction left and, yes, it landed in one of the many bunkers surrounding the green. I failed to score and when you see the lie, you’ll realise why.
Wallasey is wonderful, a course as demanding as anybody could wish for, a clubhouse full of history and people as friendly and welcoming as could be. And the great thing was that it made Hoylake, the Royal Liverpool of the mighty winds, look like a pussycat the next day – in what I reckon was a THREE-club wind. Now, I may not be much of a golfer but I do know about playing in the wind, having grown up at Portstewart and Portrush on the north Atlantic coast of Ireland. We know about wind in Ireland.
I did say, loudly and often, that if it was tipping down when it came to my tee time, I wouldn’t be playing at Hoylake, one of my favourite courses but it wasn’t, so I teed off, hustled by the starter, played quite well – putted beautifully for me – and ended up winning the Golf Writers’ Championship and the Fred Pignon Trophy. For a record fifth time. Daft. I’m still stunned. I had 32 points, off the black tees – the men played off the yellows.
The aforementioned Denis, who’d flown over from Ireland for the two comps, won the AGW’s Race To Royal Liverpool, to become Etiqus Golfer Of The Year, our best player overall but, I’m sorry Denis, many congrats on a magnificent effort but this is my blog and it’s my pic that’s appearing. It could be my last chance.There’s always luck involved in winning a title and as bad as my lie in the bunker at Wallasey was, at the 16th at Hoylake, I got really fortunate. I hit a cracking drive but it ended up in a bunker I didn’t think I could reach. I was dead in the water until I noticed a lovely little sign that read “Ground Under Repair”. GUR. Oh, happy day. I raised my arms in triumph. I got a free drop and that break helped me win the title. Sorry guys. Well, not really!
I’m running out of space, so I’m not going to rant about the new 15th at Hoylake, a vicious little SHIT of a hole that I labelled impossible until I found out that one of our number, the inestimable Neil McLeman of the Daily Mirror, had hit an 8-iron to a few feet and had a birdie TWO. Wow. My group scored NUL points total.
My good fortune continued when I got home and went out with the dog walkers. I pulled my phone out of the back pocket of my waterproof trousers to take a few photos and when I got to the bakery to buy my addictive sourdough muffins, I couldn’t find my debit card. Oops. Was it lying in the grass in the park? I headed for the bank (we still have several in Lichfield, thank goodness) to report the likely loss and as I was giving my details, a young woman with a spaniel walked in with my card…Wow again. She wouldn’t even take a coffee as a thank you.
Later still, at draw night at WHGC, I won, not the draw but first prize in the raffle and £30 on my club card.
I’m going to bed now.