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 At the 19th

Doing it for all the right reasons
The career path of a golfing journalist is rarely paved with gold, but there are sufficient benefits to maintain a sense of professional pride. A lavish celebrity bash in Bermuda, for instance, being one of them

My all-boys secondary school recently held a reunion to celebrate “Forty Years On”. Thanks to the Internet, nearly everyone was traced and, somewhat surprisingly, most showed up. Three of the five members of what was known as the 'A Team' were there. Forms were organised alphabetically and mine went from Adams down to Dwyer. The 'A Team', in alphabetical order of course, comprised; Adams, Agran, Allen, Arnold and Atkinson.

We reminisced, agreed what a waste of time Latin had been, speculated on whether our history teacher was ever convicted of paedophilia and, not unnaturally, revealed what each of us was doing now. Since I sense you're enormously interested, I can disclose that Adams, who consistently came bottom in maths and was relieved of the duties of milk monitor when discovered flogging pints on a nearby housing estate, is now a high-flying banker. His bonus last year was roughly equivalent to my aggregate lifetime earnings and, coincidentally, he owns the same number of houses as I have wedges (three).

Atkinson, who famously duped parents attending the end of season cricket match between staff and the first XI into buying tickets for what was a free tea, is now a venture capitalist. He turned up to the reunion in a Ferrari, which he proceeded to park in the space ordinarily reserved for the headmaster. From what I could gather, his only remaining unfulfilled ambition is to make it into the Sunday Times' rich list. Allen, he informed us, is chief executive of a multinational company that manufactures souvenir tea towels while Arnold, he believes, made a fortune selling the pound short on Black Friday and now lives in Monte Carlo. Neither Adams nor Atkinson was remotely interested in my faltering career as a golf journalist or in the fact that I'd had a hole in one.

Former Scottish international Gary McAllister shows off the impressive form that saw the celebrities home

You can perhaps understand why, as I drove back to my modest home in my ageing Mondeo, I began to wonder if I had made the right career choice all those years ago. My mood that evening was diametrically opposite to what it was recently at the inaugural Hackers Cup. Remarkably similar in terms of pure passion, raw emotion and high drama to the Ryder and Solheim cups, the Hackers Cup is a similar head-on collision between two deadly rivals. One side is made up of popular celebrities while the other comprises a motley assortment of journalists.

Although honoured to be invited to represent my profession, what persuaded me unselfishly to set aside all other mid-winter engagements and make myself available was, I must confess, the location of the event in Bermuda. You see, Bermuda is a classic example of a volcanic caldera, a geological feature that has fascinated me ever since I stumbled through A-level geography. A chance to examine genuine igneous extrusions and Aeolian sandstone at close quarters was simply too good to pass up.

To be absolutely honest, a concept that Adams would neither understand nor relate to, the BA business class return flights and spectacular Cambridge Beaches Resort where we stayed throughout five fabulous days did enhance the overall appeal of the trip quite considerably. Add to that the fact that the match was to be played at the stunning Port Royal Golf Course where only a few weeks previously Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley battled out the Grand Slam of Golf and you can perhaps understand why it took me less time to say 'yes' than it does for the ball to leave the face of Bubba Watson's driver.

Not even when my partner and I were four down at the turn in our fourball match against soccer legend Gary McAllister and TV presenter Rhodri Williams, did I feel I had made a mistake in going. Since you are now doubtless desperate to know how the match finished, I am obliged to reveal in what can probably best be described as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of golf, we won by one hole.

The next day in the singles I faced both a moral dilemma and one of the game's greatest 22-handicappers. Although not exactly a household name, Keith Chuter is nevertheless a hugely influential senior executive at British Airways. Although too polite to raise the subject as we fought a tense match, the thought did occur to me as he stood over a tricky four-footer that conceding the odd putt or two could conceivably result in the occasional upgrade. Team versus Business Class was raging in my head as I heard myself say, “That's good, Keith.”

Despite my heroic efforts, the Journalists were narrowly edged out by the Celebrities. Never mind, there was great consolation to be had in discussing the recent Rugby World Cup with Australia's former captain Michael Lynagh; playing a friendly round with British Olympic hero Sir Steven Redgrave and noting that we had no fewer than five Olympic golds, one Olympic bronze and a Duke of Edinburgh's Award silver medal between us; watching a European champions' league game sitting alongside Gary McAllister; and playing behind and admiring the perfect posture of Sky Sports News presenter Charlotte Jackson. It's at times like that I think to myself maybe I didn't choose the wrong career after all. So 'yaboo sucks' to Adams, Allen, Arnold, Atkinson and their aggregated billions, I'm perfectly content to just hit balls and a keyboard.

January 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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