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 At the 19th

Marathon effort puts paid to the Masters

If I slice a tee shot on to your fairway over the course of the next 12 months, will you kindly let me go about my business and not ask what I thought of the Masters? If we bump into each other in a changing room somewhere, please ignore me and leave me to concentrate on my ablutions rather than seeking my opinion of the apparently thrilling playoff between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera.

Normally delighted to chat about anything to do with golf, I am obliged through circumstances that somehow spiralled out of control to observe a self-imposed silence on events this year in the Masters at Augusta. Sensing you are hugely disappointed at missing out on my shrewd observations, perceptive insights and rigorous analysis, let me explain.

Like the flowers that bloom in front of the clubhouse at Augusta National, the seeds of my misfortune were sown last autumn. Although usually extremely reticent about the extraordinary amount I do for charity, I am obliged to reveal that I was approached by a worthy cause and invited to raise money on their behalf by competing in the Brighton Marathon. This was six or seven months ago when the date, April 14, 2013, rang no bells and so I readily consented.

A sportsman from the tip of my balding head to the soles of my 64- year-old feet, I immediately identified a fitness issue and embarked on a concerted training programme that saw me running three or four nights a week right through the winter months. Because I didn’t fancy jostling with the traffic on the A21, I ran around the course at Dale Hill Hotel and Golf Club, which is soon to be re-branded Dale Hill Hotel, Golf & Athletic Club.

Unless you were away in the Caribbean, you will be aware that the weather this past winter wasn’t all that great, with heavy rain only occasionally relenting to make way for heavy snow. Had I attempted to run on the fairways, I would doubtless have contracted trench foot, drowned or slithered to my death. And so I ran on the buggy path, which was ideal. In case you’ve often wondered how long the buggy path at Dale Hill actually is, I can reveal that, starting and finishing at the car park sign in front of the clubhouse, it’s precisely 4.31 miles.

I know because I bought a fancy watch with built-in GPS, which is the athletic equivalent of a range-finder. It monitors runs and supplies such valuable information as how quickly – or, in my case, how slowly – you’re going, distance travelled, average speed, altitude and even what we elite athletes call ‘split times’, which compares the average speed over each mile, always assuming, of course, there is more than one. The slightly fancier models include a heart monitor as well. Since mine doesn’t, I have no way of telling when running if I’m about to die or, worse still, have already died.

Jogging around an empty golf course is a rather contemplative activity that I would commend to you. Not having to hit shots is a big plus, as is not having to look for balls. No one was ever in front holding me up or behind urging me to hurry up. I also became aware of a curious inversion in my hole preferences. Slightly longer than I am accurate at golf, I have always preferred par-fives to par-threes simply because they tend to be more forgiving. For me, a wild tee-shot on a short hole normally results in a double-bogey or worse, whereas I can often foozle the odd shot on a par five and still salvage a moderately solid bogey.

But when running, the par-threes became my friends simply because they were over quicker. Having mentally divided the course into 18 parts, I would silently celebrate the completion of each hole. More significant landmarks were recorded as I lumbered past the flag at 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15.

Although obviously not playing a match, there nevertheless was a competitive element to the activity as I was always striving to set up a new personal best. In case you’re remotely interested, 41mins 28secs on February 22 remains my fastest ever ‘round’.

Playing golf, you are obliged to chat to your playing partner( s). Liberated from the need to engage in small talk you can, when running, apply your mind to weightier issues such as world poverty, nuclear proliferation and the broom-handle putter. On one run I came up with a brilliant idea for what I’m confident will be a huge best-seller: Top 100 Golf Courses to Run Around, by Clive Agran.

Anyway, having conscientiously trained for several months I lined up on April 14 at the start of the Brighton Marathon full of confidence and possibly on the brink of my best ever pay-day having had £1 each-way on me with William Hill at 20,000-1. I also had £5 on Jason Day to win the Masters at 66- 1. What a double that would make! Trying to calculate how much I would win at least took my mind off the pain for the first half-dozen of the 26 gruelling miles (£1.67m).

As it happens, I finished just outside the places in 6045th in a time of four hours, 44 minutes and 33 seconds. Had the battery in my super watch not run out after only eight miles, and I had known my time, I would have delayed my sprint finish for 11 seconds and finished on all fours, so to speak.

After an early dinner, I sat down in front of the television to see if the second leg of my ‘double’ would oblige. All credit to Jason as he hung on longer than I managed. He at least held it together until the 16th while I, thoroughly exhausted, dozed off before he even reached Amen Corner and missed the climax everyone else enjoyed.

June 2013

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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