It’s a bit of a self-indulgent blog this week – nothing new there, admittedly – and it does require me to mention, yet again, my victory in the Golf Writers’ Championship, my fifth, just in case it had escaped your notice. Rather belatedly, since he’s been dead fourteen years and more, I thought it was time to apologise to Dai, who never won the title despite years of striving.
He should have won it in 1991 and was indeed being congratulated on a sterling effort at The Wisley, off the very back tees and hailed as the champion until I, last out, came in with 38 points to knock him off the top. Rarely has a “victory” been so ill-received. Not just by Dai but by every other person in the room. I can still recall the chilliest of chilly receptions. And I’m a bit ashamed now that I grabbed the trophy with both hands.
I’d played rather well but my course was about 1000 yards shorter than the one the men played and sometimes my playing partners and I had trouble finding my tee because it was so far ahead of theirs; sometimes it took them at least two shots to reach my drives because I started hitting the ball well. Dai had played out of his spikes to record 36 points (I think) from tees that most of our members should not have been anywhere near; the club handbook recommended that only single figure handicappers should venture that far back. But the course was new and somebody with not enough sense had decided the golf writers should see the whole course…
I was the only woman playing that year and the following year, at Brocket Hall, Liz Kahn and I had to play off the same tees as the men with the far-from-generous addition of two extra shots. We complained bitterly that we needed more but Liz ended up handily placed in the middle of the pack and I won again despite blobbing the last – I seem to remember that you got a boat to the green, so that was always me doomed. At least there could be no argument that I deserved that title.
Dai’s golf was of the erratic variety – it was hard to tell from one shot to the next whether it would be triumph or disaster – but he did have his moments and one of the proudest was winning the Henry Cotton Salver at Wentworth. I think it was 1988 but sadly, there is no record of said HCS in the latest edition of the AGW handbook, probably because the salver, solid silver, is still, as far as we know, at the bottom of the Thames.
There’s a story attached, a very good story, involving a jacket going to the cleaners, a hotel bill, an affair, a beyond furious wife, a husband’s most treasured possessions, a black plastic bin bag and the river. Perhaps, when we’re all a distant memory, a fortunate mudlarker will return the HCS to the light of day…
I’ve still got some of Dai’s favourite hats and have highlighted the Kobe one because of its rarity value – I’m never likely to be back in Japan to play the course again and it reminds me of happy times with our guide and friend, the late, much lamented Pete Wakimoto. He taught us a lot and showed us places we’d never have reached by ourselves. I have a Japanese corner at home that always makes me think of Pete and the venerable Mr Doi, his great friend and partner in schemes and wheezes – though that’s probably not the Japanese way of expressing it.
Before it’s too late I want to mention another golfing success story, at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, though I waited in vain even to hear a mention in dispatches on the telly coverage. Alison White, now chairman of the St Andrews Links Management committee after a distinguished career with the R and A, played all four rounds with Stephen Gallacher. They had a 60 on the Old Course in the third round to make the top 20 comfortably but “faded” to a 68 in the last round when Alison, off 8, came in a respectable four times. The only other woman in the top 20 was Gaynor Rupert, playing with Thriston Lawrence. Well done them.
A much better pic of Alison and a much better background.
I’m back in the north east this week for a few days in Amble with Sue and the sainted Alice and it’s just gorgeous. Wonderful beaches to explore and fascinating, historic places like Alnmouth, Alnwick and Warkworth just up the road. Fresh fish to die for and the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. Mind you, a dog like Alice guarantees that you can’t move ten paces without falling into chat.
Ever mindful that Thursday is blog night, Sue had done a wonderful golfing recce for me and sussed out Alnmouth Village Golf Club, the oldest 9-hole links in England, established in 1869 and designed by Mungo Park. Even better, she’d looked up the website and found that the teaching pro is Linzi Hardy, nee Fletcher.
Wow, not sure if that’s serendipity but it’s something similar. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Linzi, who’d played in the old Commonwealth Tournament at Northumberland GC and had been wondering where she was now and what she was up to. Now I know.
Sue, Alice and I found a parking space, somewhat miraculously, had a cuppa in the clubhouse, then wandered out to the breezy practice ground, where Linzi was introducing a young woman to the joys of golf. Newly engaged (her fiancé was hitting balls at the other end of the practice field), Mary-Beth was glad of the interruption and a bit of a rest. Apologies if you’re not hyphenated Mary-Beth; I did ask, then couldn’t remember the answer; Sue said she thought you’d said you were!
Linzi, who’ll celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary next year and has two children studying at university in Newcastle, was in great form, apart from the flood in her kitchen that has wreaked havoc with some of her Commonwealth and other memorabilia. Fingers crossed they’re not beyond salvaging.