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We in the UK and Ireland all know this is the time of year when the golf season really starts.  For years it has been the Masters in gloriously technicoloured Augusta that has been the inspiration to shoo us out of doors and dust off the clubs.  For some reason, however, I seem to be trending in the other direction.  As I write, my last 18 holes were at Muirfield on March 25th and barely a clubhead has collided with a ball since then.  There are good reasons for that – speaking engagements; teaching commitments; family get-togethers at Easter; a week’s broadcasting at the Masters; and then, last weekend, two old schoolfriends, Rossie and Tricia, came to stay.

You can’t imagine the amount of chat and blethering from three Irish women who were last all in the same room together in 1984 – or perhaps you can!

With Tricia and Rossie, a rare moment of silence!

Husband Brian was relieved to escape back to work on Monday.  (Yes – he’s “unretired” himself.)  He took himself off on his motorbike on the Saturday while we walked the walls in Chester but his arrival home sparked great interest from our two visitors.  Tricia, in particular, was keen to experience riding pillion after an interlude of several decades and a Sunday outing was planned – Brian and Tricia on the bike and Rossie and me in the car.  Amazingly, Brian has lived to tell the tale – and Rossie and I needed oxygen after uncontrollable laughter overtook us.  Tricia’s efforts to get her leg over the bike left us doubled up.

Brian braced for the strain.

All ease and grace…

So, you see, there’s been a lot going on, some of it golf related certainly but not much playing of my own game.

I’m beginning to find it very easy to slip into a mode of “making do” with my golf.  As long as I hit the odd decent shot I seem to be settling for that and not minding too much.  Where has my fierce competitiveness all disappeared to?  Is it simply the logical acceptance of anno domini and of someone who no longer is prepared to practise, I wonder?

That last round I played at Muirfield was foursomes.  Foursomes is the name of the game at the Honourable Company and my partner for the second 18 that day was Gabrielle Macdonald, former Scottish champion and oft-capped International player who is working hard to see if her future will, indeed, lie in the professional ranks.  Frankly, Gabrielle inspired me.  She has reignited some competitive juices and I want to call a halt to putting up with my woeful standard of play and my mindset of the days of being a “proper” golfer being behind me.  It was a pleasure to hear the sound of crisp iron shots leaving the face of the club and to witness a deft touch around the greens.  And I found that I want that for myself again.  I know I can do better and it’s time to put in a bit of effort.  So, I’ve decided to take myself off to Somerset next month and see my old pal and former coach, Lawrence Farmer, who has retired with his wife, Sally, to cider country.

Gabrielle Macdonald – reminding me of how golf should be played. [Photo courtesy of Gabrielle]

I’ve had a few coaches throughout my golfing life starting with Johnny Hunter at Portstewart Golf Club and P. G. Stevenson (Stevie) at Royal Portrush.  Gentlemen to their fingertips they both spent decades at their respective clubs and were both succeeded by their sons who followed suit in the longevity stakes – a couple of true golfing dynasties.  As I made my way up through the ranks I had half a dozen years coached by the great John Shade at Duddingston Golf Club in Edinburgh before his untimely death.  He coached me to my two British Amateur titles and I still have notes taken during those sessions. My memories are of laughing endlessly with him as we wrestled my swing into shape.

Denis Comboy of Delamere Forest was another who made lessons so enjoyable and spending time with him on the practice ground was never a chore.  But, with all due respect to these fine teachers, Lawrence is by some distance the best coach I’ve ever worked with.  This has sometimes been to his detriment as, during his time on the Seniors Tour he was in such demand from his fellow competitors wanting him to cast his eye over their game that I’m sure his own golf suffered for it.  Anyway, I’m off to see him next month and I just can’t wait.  No more dampening down of my passion for this game.

Lawrence, front left, in the 1990s, studying Sam Snead swinging hickory-shafted clubs.  Always learning.

So, now that the sun has finally made a welcome appearance it’s time to flex those golfing muscles.  No matter what age or stage you are at your enjoyment will be enhanced by a few lessons with a PGA coach.  We can’t do it all on our own – a set of eyes on us does help and, if you choose the right coach, you’ll have a lot of laughs along the way.

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