Ask me about dreams and I’ll usually look at you blankly (not unusual admittedly, especially not now that I can blame lockdown brain for my habitual doziness). Maureen often regales us with tales of her dreams, vivid, ghastly, ridiculous, incomprehensible but I’m inclined to insist that I don’t dream because if I do, nothing remains; on waking the mind is blank.
Except the other morning, in the run-up to The Masters at Augusta. We’d been playing bridge via Zoom – more chaotic than usual because the hands had been out of synch from the start – and the chat had turned to sleep. Two of our number had to manage on a few hours a night if they were lucky, the Margaret Thatcher quota of five or so – or was it four? – and one, a mother of two, was out for the count from the moment her head hit the pillow.
Normally I’m somewhere in the middle but that night I had to get up, turn on the radio, footer about and stop worrying about being awake when I didn’t want to be. There’d been chat about what Dustin Johnson was serving at the champions’ dinner – the reigning champ gets to choose the menu – and I’d come across a lovely picture of Dai with Woosie at a trial run for the latter’s main course of Welsh lamb cooked in hay. Perhaps that was the catalyst.
Whatever, later that morning when I woke up, I wasn’t at home in bed but still in a restaurant somewhere, chatting to Woosie, Freddie Couples and another Masters champion who swirled off into the ether to remain nameless, ungraspable. I think I was imparting some words of wisdom, not on the swing (an unexpectedly good decision on my part) but on the need to be chirpy or chipper at all times, particularly on the golf course.
As I was leaving – late for wherever it was I had to be (nothing unusual there) – I half hopped over a vaguely familiar figure. immaculately dressed, sitting quietly on a bench at the end of the table. As I was leaning on his shoulders to propel myself out the door I said, “Sorry Tom”, having realised that it was Sir Tom Jones, the pride of Wales. Must mention to Helen, our singing teacher, that he should be one of the celebrity guests of choice next term.
Across the road, in another restaurant, a couple of chefs were sitting having a snack, waiting for me to turn up. Others, who included Mum and Dad, had already eaten and I remembered wondering what Dad was doing there because he had no taste buds to speak of and would have been happy with beans on toast.
“We’ve just had the best meal we’ve ever had,” they said, extolling the delights of some sort of pizza with a potato base and telling me that we were all booked in again for the next night. What the occasion was who knows – perhaps it was inspired by the thought of being able to eat out again at long last – but I remember thinking that I’d have to ditch the ISA (start of a new tax year, message from the financial adviser) because the place was mega expensive and there were a lot of us.
The main reason I’m regaling you with all this is that I wrote it down – more scrawl than copperplate so I’m making a lot of it up but in my defence I was still groggy with sleep and dreams are hardly fact-filled anyway. I used to have a pair of dream-catcher earrings, bought in Arizona, Sedona I think but they disintegrated long ago….
Some dreams of glory at Augusta National this week already lie in tatters after the first round but many are still alive. One thing’s for certain: whoever wins will have to hole his putts (or chip in) – and that’s easier said than done on greens that are as slick as they’ve been for years. I don’t suppose they were that fast or manicured in 1935, when Walter Hagen had seven one-putt greens on the first nine, to go out in 36, level par.
In his great book The Tumult and The Shouting, Grantland Rice wrote: “I struggled through nine holes with Walter that morning. He dubbed about every kind of shot imaginable….He butchered exactly 14 shots – hooks, slices, topped balls, the works….” Even Hagen, who was past his prime, couldn’t keep that up and he never did add a Masters to his long list of titles.
“It’s the putting that goes first,” Hagen said later, “and do you know why? The legs. They’re not up to that hydrant immobility needed for the solid stance. When the 8-footers begin to look like 18-footers and they don’t drop for you consistently any longer – that’s when you know you’re old.”
Rice wrote that Hagen was a great putter but added: “His following will remember him much longer for his colour, his sparkling wit, his impeccable dress, his manners and charm under all conditions, than they will for his putting.”
Some people will remember Jock MacVicar for his putters rather than putting that inclined to the indifferent – one colleague recalls his shock at seeing a stash of 20 or so of the flat sticks in the boot of Jock’s car – but everyone will remember him for his kindness, his knowledge and his unbounded enthusiasm.
Sadly, the Doyen (of Dunaverty – he and Belle Robertson were at primary school together), president of the AGW, still writing for the Scottish Daily Express and looking forward to Bob MacIntyre’s debut at Augusta, died in hospital in Glasgow a few days ago at the age of 83.
There wasn’t a Scottish golfer of note who didn’t know Jock, who recorded their exploits with rare devotion, passion and insight. “He was always positive, constructive and supportive,” Andrew Coltart, now a Sky stalwart, wrote. “When I was a kid, I felt I’d made it big when I was in one of his reports.”
Scott Crockett, communications director of the European Tour, a fellow Scot, put it beautifully: “Jock was not only loved and respected in his native Scotland but across the world…..He knew everything about golf and knew everybody in golf….but it was his gentlemanly and kind-hearted demeanour, his at times wicked sense of humour and his ability to engage everyone as he found them that most will remember fondly….
“RIP old friend.”