I had people round to mine for bridge on Wednesday evening (which meant I missed tai chi but sometimes something has to give). It was lovely, a really happy occasion, with lots of chat and laughter, some intense but not entirely classic play, some serious discussion and a warm realisation that there’s nothing like friends for making life worthwhile.
We at the AGW (Association of Golf Writers) have been losing friends hand over fist recently – I suppose we’re that sort of age – but the good thing is that the sadness is tempered with memories of lots of laughs and lives well lived, giants of a golden age of golf. There have been some wonderful tributes to Renton Laidlaw, whose picture (technical glitches permitting) appears at the top of this piece. Renton, who has just died at the age of 82, started out at the Edinburgh Evening News (his first Open, pre his official appointment, was Muirfield in 1959, sending in the scores); became well known on local telly; moved to the Evening Standard in London; then really made his name in television and radio – he was BBC radio’s golf man for many years and thanks to the World Service his warm, Scottish voice was recognised all over the globe; then the Golf Channel made him a star in America.
I always remember a stint he did on ITV – their foray into golf, an expensive sport to cover, was brief – and there was some sort of major delay, weather or whatever and Renton filled majestically – on live TV. It was a real tour de force, typical of the man whose speeches were always fascinating and enlightening but never renowned for their brevity. In his considerable, enduring heyday – he became the first European journalist to cover 40 Masters – he was non-stop, criss-crossing the globe as though he were a shark that would stop breathing if it stopped moving. He was here, there and everywhere, knowledgeable, informative, respected and loved by the great, the good and the rest of us. His work for the AGW was immense: secretary from 1978-1995, chairman from 1995-1998 and president from 2004-2015 (thanks to Alistair Tait’s lovely tribute – one of many from all over the world – for the dates). We were so lucky to have him.
Renton never married – he had some near misses I was told but charmingly dodged and weaved his way into the wide, blue yonder, leaving a bruised heart or two in his wake. He hadn’t been that well for the last few years and had given up the travelling but he kept going cheerfully, keeping tabs on things from his home in Drumoig, near St Andrews, where he lived with his sister Jennifer, a wonderful support and foil. Condolences to her and love and hugs.
On Sunday, my friend Sue, owner of the sainted Alice and I took the train up to Manchester – all up to time, no dramas, no replacement buses, wonder of wonders – to see the Grayson’s Art Club exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. It didn’t disappoint. It was just as wonderful as the telly series, hosted by Grayson Perry and his wife Philippa, that kept us going during lockdown.
Neither Sue, who is an artist (amateur) and can paint, nor I (no artist, a drawer so inept that Dai and I fell off a log laughing at my efforts to draw said log as we waited for a boat on the Marquesas) submitted anything to the programme but nearly 10,000 people did. Many of the results were stunning – and moving, as people tried to cope with lockdown and the pain of the pandemic. The exhibition is free, though you have to book a time and it is on until the end of the month. If you can get there, do. It’s worth the detour. And, like us, you might discover Adolphe Valette. Awesome.
On the golf front, Jon Rahm didn’t manage to bag his third consecutive Spanish Open title but fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello won his national championship for the first time, beating compatriot Adri Arnaus at the first hole of a play-off. It was Cabrera Bello’s first European Tour win for four years and completed his set of Spanish national championships, amateur and professional. “I’ve always dreamed about holding this trophy,” he said. “It was definitely on my bucket list…..I came here in probably the worst shape I have been in in the last decade, close to say and to walk out of here with a win, it’s very special.”At WHGC, the ladies/women/whatever we are these days battled it out in the captain’s versus vice’s match and it ended in a draw/tie/half, trophy shared. My partner and I, playing for the captain, lost on the 17th after a ding-dong game, though am sorry to report that my new woods are struggling to cope with the vagaries of my swing…Ho hum, not really a surprise, I suppose.
On the journey home from Manchester we encountered loads of weary but happy-looking bods wearing medals. They’d just completed the Manchester marathon and it reminded me that I hadn’t paid proper tribute to Andy, a near-nephew (technically I think that by marriage – his – he’s something like a first cousin once removed; whatever, he’s lumbered as a relly!) who completed the London Marathon while I was watching Spurs beat Villa 2-1. Can’t mention either of those results too often.
Well done Andy.