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 At the 19th

A year of living vicariously

At the risk of seriously annoying my several loyal followers, I should reveal that I turned down the opportunity of going to Augusta this year. Those same loyal followers may recall that I went to Augusta last year. It was great – the sun shone, there was a thrilling climax, I nicked a few souvenirs and came home happy despite the desperate disappointment of Rory’s final round.

For a fair chunk of the last 12 months I’ve been talking about Augusta. Of the 800 or so members at my club, Dale Hill, I doubt if there are more than a dozen who haven’t actually heard me vividly describe Magnolia Lane and Amen Corner or how it felt to have a packet of crisps confiscated as I entered the interview room to attend Ricky Fowler’s press conference. Have I been behaving no better than the creep who bangs on endlessly about his 41 stableford points or the incredible putt he holed on the 16th? In other words, am I guilty of bragging? Some would say so but I prefer to see it as fulfilling my mission to inform.

Recognising that very few people are actually able to attend the Masters, I’ve tried over the past 12 months to give friends and family a taste of what it’s like to be there. Honestly! But now my year is up, so to speak, I’m obliged to find something to replace the ‘I Was at Augusta’ story. And the best I’ve been able to come up with so far is ‘I Could Have Gone To Augusta Again But Chose Not To’. It could be argued that declining the opportunity to go is even more impressive than having gone.

So why am I snubbing Billy Payne and his pals? To be honest, like having a hole-in-one, attending the Masters is something every golfer would love to do. But I’ve done it. I’ve seen the azaleas and dogwood trees; I’ve sat by the 12th tee and watched balls thump into the green and trickle back towards the water; I’ve even had breakfast on the clubhouse balcony. Yes, it was all very wonderful but it wasn’t sex and so there’s no great urgency to do it again.

And, to be mildly controversial, there were one or two aspects of the experience that were slightly disturbing. Not since leaving school nearly half-a-century ago have I felt so anxious about breaking rules or being told off. For example, you mustn’t run and I was asked to sit up when I momentarily leant backwards on my elbows. And they took away my crisps! The regime that controls Augusta is essentially a benign dictatorship. Well meaning, certainly, but undeniably autocratic.

On the major front, apart from the Masters which, just to remind you, I went to in 2011 but won’t be going this year, I’ve made multiple appearances at the Open and went to the US Open in 2005. Although the USPGA Championship would give me the full set, it’s a bit too hot and steamy for my liking. Oh yes, I’ve also ‘done’ the Ryder Cup.

So what is there left in golf still for me to achieve? I’ve struggled around the Old Course at St Andrews, which is about as close to a biblical experience as a non-believer like me is ever likely to get. Of the tens of thousands of courses I’ve not played, I quite fancy a knock, in no particular order, around Pebble Beach, Old Head and Machrahanish. And, just to demonstrate there are no hard feelings on my part, you can add Augusta National if you like.

As for achievements, I must sadly accept that the likelihood of capturing a major has now receded further than my hairline, but I haven’t quite given up all hope. I’ve had a hole-in-one, two twos on par-fours, three eagles on par-fives, more shanks than sand saves but am still awaiting my first albatross. My best ever competition round was a 77 in a medal at Hendon. To balance things out a bit, I should also mention a 15 on one hole in a monthly medal where I rather pluckily sank an eight foot putt to avoid what would have been an embarrassing 16.

Mention of putting reminds me that I recently four putted twice in one round at La Manga in the Murcia Open. And no, I didn’t win. All of which demonstrates the greatest thing about golf is its unpredictability. Will I go to Augusta next year? Who knows?

May 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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