I’m Mo-sitting this week because she had shoulder surgery on Monday and I noticed something a bit odd while I was watching the golf on Sky. The guys in Dubai all seemed to be playing in shirt sleeves. So I started wondering is that really golf? If the Scots really did invent the game, the sun didn’t come into it, so is it cheating to be playing in nice weather?
Last weekend, a small, ageing contingent of the AGW (Association of Golf Writers) assembled in Norfolk to contest the Ward-Thomas Trophy at Brancaster, more formally known as Royal West Norfolk Golf Club. It’s a fantastic place, a complete throwback, hemmed in between the North Sea and the marsh, cut off by the tide day in, day out and not the sort of place any modern golf architect would be able to create. Go and play it for yourself to understand why.
It’s where Dai, my late husband, would have chosen to play his last round of golf and where he did indeed play his last round, albeit without realising that that was it. Some of his ashes were scattered there or, more accurately, blown every which way and I’ve no doubt that he loves it.
Not everybody does. We took an Australian friend there once and he was baffled, failing to see any attraction. The fairways were scuffed and scruffy that year and the greens bobbly and he couldn’t see the beauty beyond the (perceived) beastliness. We gave up trying to explain what was obvious to us when we realised that he was oblivious.
It’s such a special place that those of us who love it but only get to play there once a year feel obliged to go out whatever the weather. It was particularly foul the year that England won the Rugby World Cup and last Saturday was nearly as bad. The foursomes pairings had been drawn at dinner the night before and after a bit of will-we-won’t-we, feeling slightly less than intrepid, we set off, well wrapped up.
Only a handful of people were on the course, including the greenkeepers who were working on re-laying the 12th green and there was not a single, solitary dog. That should have set the alarm bells ringing. There are always dogs at Brancaster, spaniels, labradors, terriers, mixtures and they’re with the golfers, not just the beach walkers. It’s canine and golfing heaven. Except when the heavens open. Four of us managed nine holes before being driven in by the driving rain and bitter cold. Wet and bedraggled we arrived back at the clubhouse to find that our colleagues had headed for the fire, soup and sandwiches after only five holes!
Truncated tournament notwithstanding, my partner, who insisted on remaining nameless and I ended up proud winners of the Ward-Thomas Trophy, named after Pat, an urbane but sometimes irascible golf correspondent of The Guardian. He was also a captain of Royal West Norfolk and the reason for our annual pilgrimage.
On Remembrance Sunday, on a glorious November day, we crashed 5-0 in our annual match against The Links GC at West Runton. Well, it would have been rude, as visitors, to win two years in a row!
Congrats to West Runton, who are used to beating the AGW; to Carlota Ciganda, who is getting the hang of winning and added Lorena Ochoa’s event in Mexico to her tally; and to Aditi Ashok, from Bangalore, whose first LET victory was the Hero Women’s Indian Open.
And, finally, condolences to the family and friends of John Stirling, a former captain of the PGA who has died at the age of 89. He was a great teacher and raconteur and an even better man.