There’s lots going on in golf at the moment, at all sorts of levels but there’s only person to start with this week:  Ryan Brooks – or Mr 56 as we’ll have to start calling him.  Remember when Annika had her 59 at Moon Valley in Phoenix, Arizona?  She was known thereafter as Ms 59.  Admittedly Ryan’s 56 at Whittington Heath was not in the white heat of competitive action but a 56 on a proper, if not long, golf course is still a remarkable feat.  It’s something to be proud of, to shout about from the rooftops.

So, how did I, a member of WHGC, hear about it?

A friend, another golf tragic, rang me the other night because they’d read about it and thought, quite rightly, that it was marvellous, a real talking point and wanted to hear my take on it.  What?  A 56?  At WHGC?  Don’t be silly.   No, you must have got it wrong.  I’d have heard.

Well, it was right.   And I hadn’t heard.  And to make matters worse, this stellar round had happened eight days previously…

And my mate was ringing from Ireland…

Seems 56s are ten a penny round our way, barely worthy of mention.

A card to be proud of [not sure who took the photo but many thanks]

In all honesty, I can’t remember the last time I had a 56.   I did go out in 50 in qualifying for the Irish Championship once – at Rosses Point – and I handed my card in for two reasons:   because I had to (NR’s not allowed, against the family religion) and because I’d come back in 38 (it might have been 36 but that seems unlikely and at least it proved I could play a bit – sometimes).  Much good it did me.  I qualified, probably last or near to it and ended up being tonked by someone called McKenna.

You’ll notice that Ryan’s card includes a hole-in-one at the 4th and some wag said:  “That’s hardly surprising with all the practice he had with his charity challenge!”   That stamina-sapping effort took him more than 700 goes to make his ace.  The only other eagle in his 56 was a three at the last where he holed a putt of 20-odd feet.  “We were just laughing,” he said, having holed almost everything he looked at.  He was playing with Liam James, his coach, who is part of Robert Rock’s highly respected coaching team and works with Matt Wallace, among others; Amy Boulden, who plays on the LET and has recently joined Whittington (hooray); and Matt Dale, who plays off one, had a 66 and knows what it’s like to be tonked (the smart-aleck computer insisted on writing “toned” but I don’t know Matt, so can’t comment).  My thanks to Ryan’s big brother Jordan, our long-driving maestro (ranked world No 17), for the details.

The talented Brooks brothers: Ryan (right) and Jordan.

Ryan, who’s 23 and from Tamworth, turned professional towards the end of last year and talented though he is, it’ll be a while before he’ll find out if he can even sniff the European Tour – no qualifying school this Corona year.  There’s the Clutch Tour, the Jamega Tour, the EuroPro Tour, then the Challenge Tour, to mention just a few of the places aspiring tournament pros can hone their skills.  Earlier this week, Ryan finished third in an event at Hollinwell (a mere 2 under par) and at least earned some money.

Out in Arizona, or in Sweden, wherever they are at the moment, the unique coaching duo of Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott are, I hope, jumping up and down with delight.  They’re the founders of VISION54, a coaching philosophy that stresses possibilities, not limitations and sees no reason, really, why you can’t birdie every hole (on a par-72 course, admittedly).  If you don’t know about Pia and Lynn, you’re missing a treat.

A treasured inscription

This is what David Leadbetter, no slouch in the coaching department, had to say about them in a testimonial for their book “Play Your Best Golf Now”:  “Their passion for the game is second to none.  The VISION54 approach is far more than just pure golf technique; it allows an individual to unlock their true potential by opening their mind and believing anything is possible to achieve.  Golf games and, more importantly, the game of life, benefit through their teachings.”

Miguel Angel Jimenez, the poster boy for longevity, at the Forest of Arden [Getty Images]

Someone who knows a bit about playing a lot of golf at the very highest level is Miguel Angel Jimenez, the flamboyant Spaniard who is making his 707th appearance on the European Tour, overtaking Sam Torrance’s record.  Even better, he had a 64, 8 under par, in the first round of the Hero Open at Forest Marriott Hotel and Country Club. “It’s been a wonderful day,” Jimenez, who’s 56, said.  “I enjoy everything about my life here…..this is a way of living.  Golf is my life, you never remember any bad moments.  You can understand that you’re not going to be in a perfect mood and make a perfect score every time.  You can have a bad game but not a bad day, that’s the difference.”

Jimenez’s fellow Ryder Cupper David Howell is playing his 636th European Tour event and David Drysdale is making his 500th start, only the 43rd player to do so.  The Scot, now 45, made his debut in 1999 and has yet to win (although he’s won twice on the Challenge Tour and lost to Jorge Campillo at the 5th hole of a play-off in Qatar this year).  “It’s kind of strange to reach this milestone,” he said.  “It means I’m getting old I guess…..I don’t think I’ll catch Miguel…..but I’ll keep playing as long as I stay fit, a few more years I hope.”

David Drysdale, 500 up [Getty Images]

Last but far from least, the LPGA Tour is back in action today (Friday 31st July) with the Drive On Championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.  They’ve been off the fairways for 166 days because of COVID-19.  Closer to home, after a mere 150 days without a cut, I’m off to the hairdresser – if I can find the way through my fringe…

Tai chi in the park:  one of us still waiting for a haircut [Sue Marchant Photos]