Why don’t you write about Tiger, Maureen said, as I pondered this week’s offering.  You know, Tiger Woods, the 14-time major champion who has postponed his return to competitive golf yet again.  Well, I won’t be adding my supremely uninformed take to that debate, not least because – and I never thought I’d write these words – I feel sorry for Tiger Woods.  Above all else, the man loves to play golf, he loves to compete, he loves to conceive and hit exquisite, breathtaking, mind-boggling shots that defy belief; in short, he’s a golf tragic, hopelessly addicted and for the time being golf, at the highest level, the level he used to boss, has given him up.  That is sad.

Perhaps he’ll be heartened by Jose Maria Olazabal’s return to the fray at the Grove this week, in the British Masters supported by Sky Sports.  The Spaniard, who won the Masters (Augusta version) twice, has been out for 18 months with some sort of rheumatoid arthritis.  He’s now 50 and is playing this week and next, in Portugal, to assess if he can cope with the demands of tournament golf.  Buena suerte Chema.

Far, far, far down the skill level, where expectations are lower but competitiveness and passion are still rife, ding-dong battles rage at courses up and down the land.  Mo and co, who operate at a less lofty level than they once did, hindered by hips, feet, frozen shoulders, backs and sundry other ailments, are playing some of the best courses in the world this week; they may even be playing some of their best golf.

I, on the other hand, am at home and the golf has ranged from the near sublime (it’s all relative) to the totally ridiculous.  Whittington Heath, my home course in Staffordshire, is a Harry Colt creation (or revision; we were 130 yeas old this year and Colt came in to work his magic in the late 1920s), so it’s a wonderful place to play and here we’re going to stay, even when HS2 cuts the course in half and demolishes the clubhouse.  Not even an ill-advised high speed train will make us abandon prime heathland golfing terrain.  The golf goes on!

One of my favourite cartoons, byTim Sanders.

One of my favourite cartoons, by Tim Sanders.

On Monday, there was the annual needle match between the seniors (men) and the ladies (sic).  We lost, as usual (we know our place and how to keep the peace!) but there were some tight, tense matches as we employed a better ball stableford matchplay format with the men and women taking their strokes from their own card, 9/10ths of full handicap [non-golfers need make no effort to understand that, even golfers shouldn’t contemplate reading it again].

My partner and I won on the 17th after a match that was littered with birdies (yes, really) and outrageous putts that recalled the Americans’ efforts in the Ryder Cup (almost).  Our handicaps ranged from 9 to 14 and when we totted up at the end – we played the 18th – we reckoned that the best ball between the four of us was 66 gross.  Blimey!  No wonder we enjoyed it so much.

The 18th at Whittington Heath, featuring the ever-popular captains' bunker.

The 18th at Whittington Heath, featuring the ever-popular captains’ bunker.

The next day, playing the Heathland course, which is our shorter version, with a par of 68 and no par 5s, my golf and putting were unrecognisable and I did well to amass 28 points (the winner, who is on her way down rapidly, had 45). Vive le golf.

Yesterday, Jenny Smale, my partner on Monday, captain of the Staffordshire Veteran Ladies’ Golf Association, hosted her lady captain’s lunch at WHGC.  It was quite a year for the Staffs Vets, who swept all before them and this week added the Midland Vets County Team Championship to their list of honours.  Success on the course is great but the lunch also celebrated the friendships that have been made over the years and the enthusiasm and drive of women like Doreen Banks.  A member at Oxley Park in Wolverhampton since 1961 she is, she says, part of the furniture and the fittings there and she’s certainly part of the fabric of Staffordshire golf.  A true inspiration.  Keep swinging.


Doreen Banks flanked by Jenny Smale (right) and Ann Tweddle.

Doreen Banks flanked by Jenny Smale (right) and Ann Tweddle (Uttoxeter).