I’m a bit shamefaced to admit in the blog that I used a buggy earlier this week. It was a right Royal Birkdale buggy but it was a buggy nonetheless and Dai, unable to turn in a grave, will be doing whatever ashes do: scratching, scraping, grinding, grating, rasping? Perhaps if I type quietly and keep the Roget hidden, he won’t notice.
You see, although he did use them when he had to, Dai hated the things. In that near classic (a family joke Dai didn’t find very funny) Beyond The Fairways, published in 1999 (aaagh!), he wrote: “Golf, proper golf, has a simple formula. Anything up to four people gather together on the first tee, agree on a format for the game, make their bets, hit their shots and walk off after them. And the key word in all that is ‘walk’.
“What is happening through much of America and, unfortunately, many copy-cat countries throughout the world, is that people ride off that first tee, ride to the general area where their ball lies, hit it and ride off again. Concrete paths wind their way, like tapeworm, round the very guts of the game, serving the carts, which are themselves the condoms of golf, preventing full enjoyment of the act.
“Mark Twain may have considered golf to be a good walk spoiled but at least it was always a good walk.”
There’s more, quite a bit more but you get Dai’s drift and at least Birkdale has not succumbed to concrete paths. Also, Dai’s no longer around to see that the cart ship has well and truly sailed – and on a hot day, on a big golf course, this ageing swinger was grateful to hitch a ride.
Too many bunkers (not difficult in this neck of the links), too many putts and not enough points meant our quartet finished out of the prizes – well out. But we all hit quite a lot of good shots, not necessarily in the right order and had a lot of laughs. It could not have been a better day. And the menu was a cut above normal golf club fare. Not that Birkdale, with its history as a major championship venue, could ever be filed under ‘n’ for normal. ‘E’ for exceptional, more like.
For example, one of our number, a long-standing member, drove Ian Baker-Finch to the airport after he won the Open, the Claret Jug on her lap. That’s a story given to few. The rest of us didn’t even attempt to top it – though shaking hands with Pat Jennings probably comes close…Better show you the menu, though the image doesn’t quite match the quality of the food.
Higher up the golfing ladder, Chiara Horder, of Germany, won the Women’s Amateur Championship at Prince’s, another lovely links, in Kent. She proved too good for Annabelle Pancake, of the United States, winning the 36-hole final handily, by the old dog licence, 7 and 6. In the unlikely event that there are some young readers, your grandparents will explain the reference.
Pancake is from Indiana and her father Tony flew in to support her on Father’s Day, helped out by members of Crooked Stick GC, where John Daly shot to fame by winning the US PGA Championship after starting as ninth reserve. Horder is the third German to win the title in the last six years, following Aline Krauter (2020) and Leonie Harm (2018).Every time I visit Birkdale, I say hello to Bunty (christened Frances, maiden name Stephens, married name Smith), one of GB and I’s greatest players. Her name’s on Chiara’s trophy twice, in 1949 and 1954 and she was runner-up in 1951 and 1952. She wasn’t a big person but she had “the temperament of a tigress” according to Enid Wilson, who knew a thing or two about being a formidable match player (winner of the Women’s Amateur in 1931, 1932 and 1933).
No doubt the golfing readers will be aware that these days we have only three minutes to search for a lost ball – it used to be five – so at long last I’ve come up with a way of getting the timing right. My phone, which is sometimes in my back pocket, occasionally in the golf bag, needs a six-figure code to access stuff, so it probably adds at least an extra minute to the search; my watch is usually in my locker in the clubhouse; but in Wilko the other day, I found my solution: a digital timer.
It was four quid, from Wilko’s “really useful kitchen stuff” range and it should work a treat…I’ll keep you posted.
I’m always finding ways to delay writing the blog and this week’s prevarication involved composing a welcome to Ange Postecoglou, the latest manager of Tottenham Hotspur FC. We’ve got until Sunday to produce a wee video, giving our name, a warm welcome to our new Aussie boss and coming up with a question that might be released across every club channel (!!).
I’ve thought of a question, now I just have to root out my Spurs tee shirt and make sure it’s not too creased. Anybody got an iron to spare?…..That’s another in-joke, it’s not a serious request. This house is a no-ironing zone.