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OK, it wasn’t on the scale of a U2 tour of Britain, but the author’s foray into the arena of live entertainment, with engagements across the country, proved to be more than a one-hit wonder

It is not very often, at my stage in life, that you are invited to do something you have never done before. You say “yes” but approach it with some fear and trepidation. Well, this happened to me in spring last year. My agent, Anthony Blackburn, phoned to say that an entrepreneur from Manchester, by the name of Roy Hastings, had asked if I might be interested in doing a “tour of the halls – an Alliss one-man show”. I was slightly taken aback. Would people come to hear me reminiscing about my life in golf?

Although over the years I have occasionally performed in theatres, a very large percentage of my engagements had been at golf clubs, where the audiences were receptive to all things golf. I think that golfers have to be very wary of speaking at rugby or cricket clubs, and vice versa. Why?

Because after a couple of sherbets, if you have a few people in the audience who aren't tuned in to your particular line of patter, the natives get restless. It’s very easy to lose your audience and, although it doesn’t necessarily end in tears, there are usually a few sniffles.

Dammit, I thought, I’ll give it a go. The money was good and I was assured I would be paid even if only a handful of people turned up. It doesn't come much better than that!

And so September 1, 2010, dawned and I found myself in New Brighton, at a relatively new theatre within walking distance of the Mersey Tunnel. I’d formulated a plan of campaign. The show would be in two halves, with a 20-minute break for refreshments, the whole evening lasting about 2½ hours. The theatre folk seemed delighted. We had a full house, a complete sell-out, and nothing much for them to do. All I needed was a table, a chair, a jug of water, no slides, no dancing girls (sadly), everything nice and simple. The audience was kind and receptive and it went very well.

On to Lytham and another full house. A couple of nights at one of my favourite hotels, the Clifton Arms, and a visit to Royal Lytham & St Annes, where I had just been made an honorary member, to meet with Anne Mackintosh, a Scottish portrait painter of renown, who wanted to “do” me. I was flattered. I sat in the big window overlooking the 18th green – a very special moment for me, as Royal Lytham & St Annes is one of my most beloved golf clubs.

Then it was time to move on to all points north, south, east and west, as far as Aberdeen in the north, Christchurch in the south, Barnstaple in the west country, Lowestoft in the east. The 36 dates fairly whizzed by and come the end of November that part of my tour was done and dusted.

It had been a complete revelation. I was fortunate that at least 90% of the audience were interested in the game of golf and although the first half of the show consisted of me giving a life history of the Alliss family – where we came from, how we got involved in golf, how I started off as an unpaid assistant to my father, later to be joint professional at the delightful Parkstone Golf Club, international matches, Ryder Cups, World Cups, GB&I v. Continental Europe, my introduction to the world of television – it all went by in the twinkling of an eye. Off the audience went for suitable refreshments, and on their return it was question time. And what a collection of interesting questions they asked – about my favourite courses, who would play in my last fourball, does the ball go too far, costs of the game, funny TV moments, pro-celebs and the like. What I found perhaps the most surprising was that only once did anyone ask me about the Tiger Woods ‘situation’.

It was all so pleasant. I could have gone on for hours, in true Ken Dodd style, and I feel sure they would have stayed to listen. This year kicked off with three final dates in the west country and, who knows, there may be another tour in the autumn. All considered, 2010 was my busiest year ever. All this talk of “ageism” – heck, it’s passed me by. Whoever said: “As one door closes, another opens” knew a thing or two.

Finally, I got a huge shock recently when I read of the uncertain future of Titleist/FootJoy, arguably one of the most influential companies in the world of golf. The parent company is Fortune Brands, but there are two other companies in that business portfolio, which is now to be split up. This would lead to the Acushnet company being sold. Fortune Brands says it “hopes” it will be bought by someone who has the interests of the game of golf at heart. Wow, I would hope so!

For over 75 years Titleist golf balls have become renowned for the highest standards of excellence. The winners of most major championships continue to use their products. Oh, Fortune Brands, please look after Titleist/FootJoy. Where will this sort of thing end? In the words of that long-departed songsmith, Lionel Bart, “Fings ain’t wot they used to be”. The way things are going, they never will be again.

March 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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