the kilted caddie plays The Old

It is always an experience playing the Old and particularly the tee shot off the first. I was out yesterday in my second game of the year, in the St Andrews Club Autumn Prizes competition. My first ever competition as a member.

As I stood on the medal tee of the first I did admit to feeling slightly nervous and being rather under the spotlight, as the sun was out and there were a good fifty onlookers behind us. Moreover, we were off back medal tees right under the nose of the R&A clubhouse. Anyway, I took out my driver as we were into a wee breeze. However, I hit an almighty, careering hook which headed with great velocity towards the upper balcony of the white house next to the New Club. I felt obliged to shout a rather loud ‘fore!’ as the ball crashed into the cars and some startled looking tourists on the street. Oops! There was a stunned silence and a sense from the crowd that this old game of golf has the potential for entertainment after all. Worst still I was wearing my cerise pink shorts and bright, striped orange Tom Morris socks, which were doing nothing to help me blend away into the background.

I let my partners hit their balls up the middle and then teed up my provisional. I had suddenly become a major focus of attention to everyone in the local vicinity and of particular interest to resident Links householders, curious Asian tourists and people having left their cars parked next to the course. A keen silence prevailed as I proceeded to hit an almost identical shot. I could not bring myself to shout another fore as I figured that everyone in their right minds would have had their eyes peeled on my ball, as it headed dangerously and ominously towards the houses and cars, still parked on the road. I was mortified. However, on the upside there was no sound of breaking glass, screams, or indeed angry shouts. There was just this uncanny and unsettling calm, a kind of amazed and amused silence as if people hadn’t quite registered what was happening or simply felt that laughing was not apt for the gravity of this scene, apart from the sole voice of a young boy behind who I think wished me luck.

I have never been more relieved to get off a golf tee before and was very lucky to have two very understanding, supportive and easy going playing partners. I did quickly explain that I was just playing for a handicap and that it was only my second round in three years. However this fact was not greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm.

And so I didn’t make the most auspicious start in relaunching my golfing career and managed to find myself nine over par after two holes. I had hit my tee shot off the second very close to the restaurant window of the new Links Clubhouse, adjoining the New Course and then slammed a 3 iron into a gorse bush. I am not sure how many diners witnessed that shot, but I must say at this stage of my game I was certainly giving entertainment all round. In fact to five packed clubhouses in two holes of golf. Now that is an achievement. And I would venture, a unique one at that.

However there were glimpses of the old magic and I did go 3,3,4,3 around the loop, hit the par 5, 14th in two shots and managed to go one under from the ninth to the fifteenth. And indeed my drive up eighteen went handsomely high above the rooftops of the houses on The Links, but straight as a die and just short of the green.

However, I don’t think the gallery who had been there four hours earlier would have quite believed that.



A different league

We had the European Amateur outfit up at The Castle yesterday. These guys are an interesting mix of individuals who enjoy their golf and play in tournaments all over the world at their leisure. I got the impression that most were pretty well healed and successful in their own right. Indeed Nigel Mansell has been known to pitch up at a few of their events. But there were also guys who’d made it big in fish, scaffolding, football and attractive offshore funds.

Our group were regaling the story of one rather prosperous member who not only arrived at the very upmarket Swinley Forest club in his Maserati but had his clubs delivered by his driver in his other Maserati. Talk about making a statement. As if one Maserati is not enough. Anyway this chap was told that their group would have to start at the 9th hole which was a little bit away. He indicated that he would like to be driven down there. And being told by the rather bemused officials that he would not be able to take the Maseratis down the track he got his driver to go back and get the Bentley.

And I suppose he could only have topped that by getting Nigel to drive him down in it.

Amusing times

Had a kind of Robin Williams moment out with our guys from Chicago last week, you know the accent he puts on in mimicking a drunken scotsman in his origins of golf sketch.

Our group on the first tee all had strong and distinctive Chicago accents which I suppose is not that surprising.  The surprising thing was the accent of their tour operator Jim who has spent the last fifty years there but hails from Glasgow. Surprising because his accent changed from that Chicago drawl to a Greenock grunt ( ie Robin Williams as drunken scotsman) in an instant, depending on who he was talking to. In fact I’ll go as far to say that he became Robin Williams in that sketch. It was fascinating and most amusing.

The really interesting thing though was watching his face as he simultaneously addressed client and caddie, the tiny tortuous moment of hesitation and our wonder at which accent would prevail.

ps I highly recommend listening to the Robin Williams sketch! Must be the funniest pieces of stand up ever.

£130000 Joining Fee

Yes that’s what Yanni, a fun and most cool looking London based hedge fund owner, told me was the price of joining Wentworth nowadays, as we sauntered up the second fairway at the beginning of The Eden Club Tournament last week. Thereafter he said it’s ten grand a year. Well that’s one club I am not going to join. Mind you this makes the two hundred and fifty quid joining fee and one hundred and thirty annual membership for The St Andrews Club look even better.

I intimated to Yanni that I thought you got free membership if you had a house adjoining the Wentworth course and he said yes, but if you have a house there then the fees wouldn’t be an issue anyway. Fair point.

I mentioned that my Dad’s friend used to have a house on the seventeenth fairway. Slight dramatic pause from me as we approached Yanni’s ball and then I added ‘but he ended up in Wandsworth’, and Yanni obviously now more interested in his approach shot retorted ‘oh it’s quite nice there too’, to which I seeing he hadn’t quite got the point, elaborated ‘no, Wandsworth prison’.

And we did both laugh.

William The Eagle

I did something which I very rarely do yesterday and so witnessed a very rare thing indeed. I had the day off and my partner and I were out ostensibly to get pictures framed. However the shop was closed so it being a nice day we strolled down the Scores, had a coffee outside The Old Union and headed down North Street. We were gazing in admiration at the polished marble steps of Kinnettles the new 5 star hotel in town, which was due to open that evening at 6pm, when the owner kindly invited us in for a wee look around. And I must say that it looks very nice indeed.

Anyway after this we walked down to The Old Course and stood behind the eighteenth green. There was a group coming up and a chap playing his second shot in from well before the road. We watched. He hit a full shot which bounced about 30 yards before the green. As it approached I said ‘that’s a good shot’ and it was. The ball took a huge double break, meandering up the valley of sin to appear on the flat of the green and hold a beautiful hyperbolic line into the pin twenty five feet away. It disappeared plumb in the middle of the hole at perfect pace. What a shot. What a chance occurrence. I mean we could have sat there all summer and winter and not see that happen. There was a group of about twenty five Japanese tourists who didn’t I think get its enormity or certainly didn’t express themselves outwardly at its enormity, apart from one little chap who clapped very enthusiastically indeed.

I am sure I saw the ecstatic golfer rub tears from his eyes. I spoke to him afterwards and he turns out to be on a celebratory golfing week for his 65th birthday. Well he’s finished off on The Old in style for sure. An 8 iron from 165 yards into the cup for a two. I like the 165 yards I must say.

And so Mr William Bird you shall I hope be referred to as William The Eagle from now on. That was Olympian.