There is a very macho belief amongst golfers that they are actually much better golfers than they appear to be, it comes from all the golf magazines they buy, those magazines that exist purely to convince you that if you pay £500 for the next best thing in Drivers then you will instantly become as good as the pro in the magazine who is extolling you to spend £500 on the next best thing in Drivers.
I should know, I fell for it myself, I bought a set of Yonex woods on a vague promise that I’d play like I knew what I was doing, and I bought a set of Cleveland irons because a photograph of Vijay Singh told me that I’d be absolutely ace simply by doing so, it was all rubbish, all of it, when I hit a golf ball with a random club its a raffle as to where it will go, in fact my playing companions hold raffles every time I step up to a tee and golfers in the next county take refuge behind trees, the only time I’ve ever hit a ball straight is on “World Tour Golf”, the computer game, not a real world tour, and thats only because I set the handicap to “Blind, with no arms”.
There’s another very macho belief among golfers who own their own businesses and that is that when someone asks if you want to enter a team in a professional sportsmans testimonial competition day you say “yes, of course, put me down for a team, and a table at the very expensive sportsmans dinner afterwards”.
And so weeks later thats how you come to find yourself stood on the first tee outside a posh golf club just outside St Helens with a crowd of a hundred or so competitors all stood watching you and thanking their lucky stars that their team didn’t get drawn to tee off at the start of the competition like your team did and you stand on the tee, all alone, with your knees knocking and a voice inside your head saying “How the hell did you get yourself into this situation then ?”
I’d entered myself, our Ned and two others in a team of four for the Anthony Sullivan Testimonial series of golf days, yes you know who he is, St Helens and Wales and Great Britain, son of Clive Sullivan, recipient of several hundred of my English Pounds in his testimonial fund, giver of his Wales Rugby League playing shirt from the world cup semi final against Australia – someone offered me £500 for that shirt on the very same night that he gave it to me as my wife reminds me constantly every time she sees it still hung up in the wardrobe now, I won’t admit it to her but she is right, I should have taken that drunken idiots £500.
So there we were, a sunny afternoon, a round of golf to play, a team of four playing a Stableford round, best two scores count on each hole, thats me off the hook then, our two guests both played off five handicaps (thats good), me and Ned off our made-up twenty one handicaps (not so good), all we had to do was make sure our two almost professional players scored lots of points on each hole, Bobs your uncle.
And so the round progressed and at every hole as soon as I’d had four or five shots I just picked up my ball and walked the rest of the hole – thats the beauty of the Stableford method of scoring you see, if you’re playing crap or can’t be arsed then it doesn’t matter as long as your team mates are doing ok and my team mates were, they were scoring plenty on each hole, even Ned was scoring plenty on each hole, between the three of them we’d picked up loads of points, I was a mere frippery in our team and not really required at all.
And when we’d reached the halfway point one of them totted up the cards, hummed and harr’ed, and then looked at me and asked if I knew how many points I’d scored.
I thought long and hard and then realised that actually, I hadn’t played a single shot on any of the greens so far having picked up my ball a long way down the fairway first, even on the short par 3.
“Erm, one ?” I tried, optimistically.
“No, actually its none” he confirmed what I already knew.
“Its ok” I lied, “I’m not that bothered”
“You can’t go back to the clubhouse with no points” they all insisted and they promised to help me score some points.
It didn’t work, or maybe they forgot, but by the time we got to the 17th I still had no points but by some miracle and with the aid of some forgotten shots and liberal use of the handicap system I managed to score two points on each of the last two holes, signed the scorecard and handed it in.
Four points it said on my card, its a world record, have a look, its right there in the Guinness Book of World records, worst ever score in a stableford competition, will probably never be beat, except by a blind man with no arms playing his first ever game.
That evening, as with all of these sportsmens testimonial golf days there was dinner, beer, speeches, and then the prizegiving.
I thought we might be in with a shout for one of the main team prizes, our two almost-pro players had amassed an impressive number of points and indeed one of them won one of the “nearest the hole” prizes, but we weren’t called for third, second or first team prize and then came the last prize of the evening.
I knew the player agent who had organised the whole event, had known him for some time, and being a scouser he couldn’t resist the joke, not when he saw my score anyway, as soon as he saw my score he’d sent someone out to purchase another trophy, just for me.
Ray French, BBC rugby commentator was doing the prize presentation but luckily Ray French BBC rugby commentator knows nothing about golf and so when he called my name out for the “Special Prize” he thought that my score of four stableford points was actually a very special event and he failed to see the significance of the engraved trophy that he handed over, the small trophy of a female golfer with a plate that read “Played Like A Tart Award”.
I still have it, its probably in the garage, with the golf clubs.