The message was clear, succinct and because the writer knew who he was dealing with, highlighted in red: “For those in possession of the trophies, please remember to bring them along.”
Blimey, that includes me. Somehow, last year, at the venerable Royal Liverpool GC, colloquially known as Hoylake (because that’s where it is, on the Wirral, near Liverpool), I won the Golf Writers’ Championship and the iconic Fred Pignon Trophy for a record fifth time.
Derek Lawrenson, recently retired as the must-read golf correspondent of the Daily Mail (hooray, it now means I never have to open the paper again – apologies to the new golf person, if there is one; must at least keep up with that), has won the title four times and now that he can play loads more golf and is still young (ish), my money is on him to add to his collection. Anyway, I digress as usual and neither Derek nor I laid hands on any silverware this time round.
We were at Hoylake again, on a bright enough and very breezy morning, playing the Open routing that Brian Harman had conquered a few weeks before to win his first Claret Jug. “Oh,” I, ever the diplomat, said on checking in at the reception desk in the pro’s shop, “does that mean that poxy little hole is the 17th?”
“What poxy little hole would that be?” came the response. The old hand at the desk has seen and heard it all and is now, whether by nature or nurture or both, a supreme diplomat, not bland by any means but always calm and in control.
The hole, a new addition, is called Little Eye and measures 100 yards from the black tees that I played from. If the course is being played as normal, it is the 15th but for the Open it’s the penultimate hole, a sharp-edged, would-be legendary par 3 of 130-odd yards that will, with luck, undergo considerable renovations in the immediate future. I hear that many members bypass it altogether, going from the 16th green to the 18th tee without missing a beat.
In the Open programme, John Heggarty, the club’s head pro for more than 40 years, described the hole thus: “The views are stunning and the setting dramatic, with an infinity green that plays directly out towards the ocean and Wales. The green is raised above the player significantly and the sea of bunkers and huge fall-off areas to all sides, including all the way to the green, provide a striking scene. It is absolutely essential to hit the green as any miss will leave a devilishly difficult up and down…..”
In other words, it’s a nasty little shit that is far too much of a lottery to have any place on a proper golf course; far better suited to one of those impossible-golf-hole calendars…Oops. Have I made my feelings clear?
Anyway, my card was full of blobs (nul points) by the time we reached Little S. Our best player hit a very good shot that landed on the green and miracle of miracles, stuck there not too far from the pin, which was only eight yards from the front, in a central position (not sure how many sensible pin positions are possible); our next best player made respectable enough contact but pulled it left and ended up in a sandy waste well below the level of the green in some other poor unfortunate’s massive footprints…Seve at his sublime Houdini best would have struggled to extricate himself and many hacks later a blob went on the card. Thank God for stableford.
If you look at Mo’s blog, you’ll see my elegant tee shot, captured on video unbeknownst to me…I have nothing in my bag that can cope with the distance into the gale (!), so I have to finagle something with my 5-wood, down the grip and smash it. Thanks to the sensible people who decided not to shave the grass, thus saving my ball from a sandy grave in that cavernous bunker. Though, in my defence, I got out of every bunker I was in very respectably first time (bar one, when I wasn’t really trying because I’d forgotten to hit my drive because I was too busy talking, which is another story but scarcely a surprise).I suppose there’s no escaping the shame of admitting that the Fred Pignon is (reminders notwithstanding and burglars permitting) still sitting, half-cleaned (it’s very old and not easy to get pristine) on my kitchen counter. Yes, reader, I left it behind.
My sincere apologies to Dave Edwards, who won the championship for the first time – and the Race to Royal Liverpool and the Etiqus Golfer of the Year as well. A great effort. Fortunately, Dennis Kirwan, who was Golfer of the Year last year, managed to return his trophy and Maureen very kindly lent me the Madill Trophy to stand in for Fred. Just as well The Lasses had defeated The Lads at Muirfield this year for the first time since 2016!
Dave, who lives in Banffshire and plays at Cullen, not far from Lossiemouth, where our maternal grandmother came from, was inspired by his wife Yvonne, who sent him out with the words, “Win it for me.” He did his bit and I can only apologise to Yvonne for making a complete and utter bollocks of my part. But at least her man had quite a bit of silverware to handle and I did persuade the inimitable Elaine Ratcliffe, former Curtis Cup captain and one of golf’s great people, to do the presenting bit.
They didn’t have this trouble at The Open…(the 17th apart…)