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 At the 19th

Been there, done that...
What were you doing during the hours of daylight between Monday 4th and Sunday 10th April 2011? Nothing particular? Well, perhaps you’d care to sit back while the author tells you what he was up to

As you will see when you turn the pages of this magazine, I was there in Augusta at the US Masters.

Although never one to gloat, when I arrived in Augusta the first thing I did was email pretty well all 800 of my contacts something along the lines of, “Forgive me for not having been in touch recently but I’ve been extraordinarily busy. I’m in Augusta at the moment but as soon as I’m back let’s meet up.”

Well, now that I am back from Augusta, I find myself sneaking it into every conversation. If someone says, “Isn’t it lovely and warm today,” I reply, “Yes, but not as warm as it was in Augusta.” That, of course, prompts the response from my golfing pals at least, “Wow, were you in Augusta?”

If you’ve really nothing better to do you could count up the times I’ve already mentioned Augusta in this column. But, as I’m sure you have better things to do, I can reveal that it’s seven including the one just now. Ridiculous, I know, but what’s the point in going to Augusta (eight) if you can’t shout about it?

Okay, you will be relieved to know that coming up right now is my last mention of Augusta. That’s it, it’s over. I’m not going to use the ‘A’ word again. I’ve now been there and done it and, although I wasn’t able to buy the t-shirt because they don’t stock anything quite so vulgar, I must move on.

Because it’s important to have ambitions in golf I ask myself, what next?

I’ve been to more Open championships than Ian Poulter has pairs of daft trousers and was there at Pinehurst in 2005 when Michael Campbell captured the US Open. Logically, therefore, I should try and complete the grand slam by going to a USPGA championship. However, the USPGA doesn’t quite pop my corks in the same way as, for example, does the Masters at you-know-where.

So what else have I done? In mentioning that I’ve been to loads of events on the European tour, three on the US tour and one on the Asian tour, I’m conscious of sounding like those rather sad golfers who buy ball markers everywhere they go to prove to whoever might be interested – which is absolutely no one – that they’ve been to, for example, Turnberry, Wentworth and Woburn (incidentally, I’ve played all three!). I’ve also knocked it round the Old Course at St Andrews, which was as close to a religious experience as a committed atheist like me is ever likely to get.

I’ve also played at Cardiff Golf Club, mention of which brings me seamlessly onto my hole in one. There isn’t sufficient space here to describe it properly and so I shall merely content myself with saying that it was more than a touch lucky.

Then there are countless pro-ams. Not all the players I’ve partnered have achieved legendary status but they are all heroes in my eyes. Johnny Miller was the most famous while Benn Barham was the nicest. I certainly remember them even if they may not remember either me or my idiosyncratic swing. Also quite likely to have forgotten the struggling hacker he wasted 15 minutes on is David Leadbetter.

Other famous names I could casually drop into a conversation (and frequently do) include Jack Nicklaus, Sir Nicholas Faldo and Gary Player, all of whom I’ve interviewed. Although I’ve never had a one-to-one with him, I did ask Tiger Woods a question at a press conference a little while ago. I can’t remember either the question or his almost certainly unhelpful answer but, again, it was one of those things I felt I had to do.

Arnold Palmer was a boyhood hero of mine and when the Open was played at Royal St George’s in 1981, I literally bumped into him as he was walking away from the fifth green. Seeing him out of the corner of my eye, I deliberately stood in his way. He said, “Excuse me,” and our shoulders lightly brushed one another. There was nothing sexual, you understand, but it meant an awful lot to me.

Among my other great golfing achievements is carrying a scoreboard at the Troon Open in 2004 and being an outstanding marshal at the Ryder Cup last year. My record at Celtic Manor was an impressive 2-0-0 as Europe won both my matches. My only regret is that I had to come home on Sunday night and was so knackered that I dozed off in front of the TV the next day and was perhaps the only man in the world to have slept through what I am given to understand was a thrilling climax.

When I first took up golf, my clear and specific aim was to win the Open. Like all the great champions you ever read about, I was out there day and night hammering balls on the range. But it didn’t quite work out for me in the same way that it did for some others.

Condemned by a lack of talent to a lifetime of mediocrity, I nevertheless love the game and my only true remaining ambition now is to stay healthy enough to continue trying to hit a fairway for as many years as possible. Oh yes, and maybe make one more visit to...

June 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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