Well, it’s embarrassment and apologies all round after I got myself in one hell of a mess – by putting in an ‘l’ where there wasn’t one. I thought that it was Joe Flanagan who had died but it was another lovely Joe, Joe Fanagan. My sincere apologies to the Fanagans and the Flanagans.
Both Joes were a joy to be with but Joe Fanagan was lucky enough never to be asked to run the women’s European Tour. His daughter Suzie, who played Curtis Cup, did turn professional and Joe and the family were steeped in golf. Rhona, Joe’s wife, remains an elegant, excellent player, Denise is more than handy and Jody played in the Walker Cup, partnering Padraig Harrington in a memorable GB and I win at Royal Porthcawl, one of the rare occasions when Tiger Woods looked out of his depth.
Sporting excellence aside, the Fanagans are a joy to be with and meeting any one of them always puts a smile on your face. At this sad time, it’s the happy memories and the laughs that start bubbling to the surface and Mo and I send our love and condolences.
And I send my abject apologies to the Flanagan family. I’m keeping in my appreciation of their Joe, who died a few years ago, because he more than deserves it.
It’s more than 30 years since he was persuaded to become executive director of the Women Professional Golfers’ European Tour, a body that was often as unruly as its name was unwieldy. Joe, who’d been involved in running the Carroll’s Irish Open for many years, was well-versed in the ways of tournament golf but trying to manage and promote a tiny, struggling tour was a very different beast. Ever affable and outwardly unflappable, he had learned to expect the unexpected but I suspect the turmoil of the tour taxed even his patience and forbearance to the limit.
He played his part in getting the Solheim Cup up and swinging at Lake Nona in 1990, recognising that it was a big and important step for the Europeans even though they risked being overwhelmed and outclassed by the Americans. The home side did indeed win handily and some commentators scoffed that it would be 100 years before Europe could compete. Two years later it was the Americans who were overwhelmed and outclassed as Europe won a famous victory at Dalmahoy.
Joe had been replaced by then, dismissed for…..what? Not performing miracles, I suppose. Except that, looking back, he probably had.
I’ve never had a keen, analytical brain and my powers of logic are intermittent at best – as my bridge partners know to their cost – so it’s a bit of a miracle that I’ve made it this far. Luck, of course, has played a big part – parents, upbringing, being in the right place at the right time every now and again, loving and helpful family and friends – and I’m totally convinced that there’s no such thing as a self-made person. Think about it, it’s a patently ridiculous notion given that everybody has been born to somebody; even if they’ve come out of a test tube, they haven’t emerged into the world purely under their own steam; and throughout life everybody has had help at one time or another.
Where’s all this leading? Well might you ask. I think it started because someone wondered if I was going to address what they called Rory’s rant on the subject of the Distance Insight report being conducted by the R&A and the USGA and my brain cell shrivelled up at the thought. Like my once beloved, vibrant Spurs I’m lacking in energy and inspiration – call it lockdown lethargy – but this distance debate will run and run, though I doubt I’ll ever have anything relevant to say on the subject. It’s a long time since a powder puff like me knew what a green-in-regulation at a short par 4 was, so I think it’s fair to say that almost everybody on earth plays a game with which I am not familiar.
Embedded balls are also beyond my remit, I’ve decided – though there is a very funny WhatsApp video doing the rounds of a guy calling for a ruling on a ball embedded in the snow. The ball is orange – a Callaway I think – and at the beginning it’s sitting on top of the snow but by the end it’s buried. I’d share it if I had the technical know-how but it’s worth seeking out.
That’s another thing, lots of people I know are very good at learning remotely. Don’t know how to share a WhatsApp video? Google it. (Still baffled.) Need to know how to get multiple, mysterious stains out of a pale woolly? That’ll be on Google. (Still stained.) Want to repair a broken plate? Look it up on line. (Still broken.) Oh dear. Some of us need something a bit more hands-on, a bit more old-fashioned or, in more extreme cases, a real, live, breathing expert as in The Repair Shop. Ah, how divine, a real, live, breathing expert…
One good thing about on-line learning is that your singing teacher – and your fellow choir members – can’t hear you mangling the music. Everybody’s muted because it’s a cacophony otherwise, as we demonstrate when we’re all unmuted to sing happy birthday to some poor soul who has to look grateful. Funnily enough, though, when we’re all together in the same room it sounds suitably tuneful and celebratory. Real, live rehearsals? That’ll be fun. Some time this year do you think?
A little bird tells me that the Scots are still playing real, live golf, out there swinging on real golf courses, come snow or high water. Am I envious? Not at the moment, given the mostly foul weather but let’s hope the rest of us will be out there joining them soon.
This is as good a moment as any to introduce my cosy Aussie cardy, made of King Island wool, born and raised in the middle of the Roaring Forties. Dai and I played on the little course there, best described as sporty and associated with the Goggins, one of Australia’s most famous golfing families. Dai thought I, a non knitter, was daft carting back a load of wool but it’s beautiful stuff and my cousin Lesley did the technical, creative bit, for which many thanks again. It’s like a blanket, so it’s a treat when it’s cold enough to wear it!
And this is a turtle made of kelp, another of King Island’s native products. I was just looking for an excuse to give him an outing.