Saturday: I immediately put the television on at 6.30 am. Despite barely being able to open our eyes, the sports news appears and weíre about to witness Mike Bushellís piece from Thursday morning. Through the football, rugby union, tennis, motor racing, we wait. And wait. AndÖ it never happens. Weíve been shelved because the British public voted for a hung parliament and the BBC have put us on the back burner to sit outside 10 Downing Street all day. Tinpot. Well, I suppose we better play a World Championships.
The weather has changed for the better. Today, we have a cloudless sky and no wind, completely different to what we have trained in. I concentrate on getting the pace right on the front nine as they are ones which are exposed to the elements. It all goes well so I spend the last fifteen minutes or so going around my team mates to check if they have any issues. Ed helpfully gets me the line on the short 16th. It had been troubling me all week and I finally crack that mistress. That piece of advice did me so many favours.
Due to having done so well last year, Iím into the fourth to last group of the day. I spend my time waiting by watching the opening couple of shots, grazing on the cheap food and frequent trips to the toilet. I hope it isnít just me that has bladder issues on the day of a major tournament but it must be some kind of chemical reaction. I would like some research into this as I am a ready-made test subject. My group is made up of ale connoisseur Tony Kelly and promising youngster Matty Exall. The plan for me is to go deep into the tournament dropping as few as possible. The aces will come, just be patient. I make a good start and get to -3 after seven. For some reason, I started tensing up halfway round and it takes me the rest of the round to figure out why as Iím standing too close to the ball. I make the 16th. Itís going well. I get told Iím tied for the lead. Something I donít need to hear as I drop the next hole. An opening 33, will suffice. Iím one off the lead.
For the next two rounds, I hit a fantastic flow, hardly having to resort to my notes at all, with virtually everything up within a foot of the cup. By the end of round two, Iím in joint first. By the end of the next one, Iím leading by two, despite pushing my putt at the last off to the left. -9 with a round to go on day one. Now, I start to become interested in the others and thankfully for me, no one is tearing up the course. Will Donnelly gets to -9 and is the clubhouse lead. If, and it is an if, I can make a move and throw in something in the low 30ís, I could turn a great day into an excellent day. The original plan had been to play round four in fancy dress but what I hadnít factored in was that I have now harbouring ambitions of maybe winning this so I abandon the idea. Try as I might, I couldnít buy an ace in round four and hit a perfect par, an achievement in itself. So after all that, Iím tied for the lead with Will, one shot clear of Adam Kelly and two clear of four players. Adam said it. ĎThis is turning into 2011í. He was right.
Afterwards, all the thrills and spills of the hole in one challenge are a great way to end it. We all gather around the second hole as I finally pull on the fancy dress outfit. See the picture for what the tournament was denied during my performance. The two people that manage it are my team mates, Derek Bentall and Martin Relf. While most of the field drift away to find a pub to watch the Scotland Ė England football match, my club are having a seven player crazy, crazy round, with all balls in play. After over an hour of frolics, Ed wins by two from the piggybacking gnome. For the record, I score exactly what I did in round four. Maybe I should have done.
From there, we make arrangements for the evening. I have a friend to meet at the train station at 7 pm, which everyone assumes is a date. We go for a meal and a drink before moving onto The Albion pub, later to get joined by Ed, Derek, Martin and his wife, Dee, and Adrian Amey, who is looking lost. I make sure my Ďdateí has the full Hastings experience as we see tramps squaring up to one another and a dog shaking another one by the lead. Donít say I know how to treat a woman. After five pints, I say goodbye and head off back to the room. I am calm, itís been nice not to really talk about what had happened today. Remarkably, I have no nerves, despite the pressures of what Sunday was about to serve up.
Sunday: I have a date with destiny. Is this the day that we finally crown a new champion? Is it me? Try as I might, it is on my mind but despite this, I get a great night of slumber. We give BBC News another try but once again, the article is put on the back burner. It is a real shame, it could have been a huge boost for us. We pack the bags and walk them back to the car. The first view of the course is set to the backdrop of an overcast landscape, complimented by the wind of later in the week. I really donít want to over complicate things today so I decide to go around twice and work on the tricky 15th.
Being the last group out, the waiting game begins. Iím with Will Donnelly and Adam Kelly, both of whom are significant threats to any ambitions I have. The competition is so close that anyone with ten could win this and that is twenty-three people. I lay down on the lucky last hole and put my cap over my eyes, trying not to think about what I am doing today. Sean asks if I can introduce the last six groups to the tee as he is out earlier than expected. With my background in entertainments, I oblige. It gives me something to concentrate on and look at the line on the first. And then, weíre off. Iím still on the run of pars, which Adam is counting off as the number increases. It reaches 27 and seems certain to climb at the rebound on the tenth. However, I get a break with a 360 around the cup and it drops. At last.
Soon after, I pick up another two before my nemesis hole, the last strikes again. The three of us end level on -11. Thirty-six holes from glory. Some of chasing pack have had great rounds, Terry and Ed join Chris on -9. Ominously, Olivia Prokopova moves within five. Adam remarks thatís she is not out of it, one of the biggest understatements of the weekend. Round six is steady as she goes for me, picking up the fourth before another run of twos. A pair of late aces give me a 33, whereas my playing partners have struggled. Amazingly, I will go into the final round of a major with a two-shot lead over Adam, along with the charging Ed and Olivia. Ed is playing out of skin and it would be the most incredible Cinderella story having been the novice champion last year. We know he is capable but this is another level.
I seek advice from former champion, Chris Harding, over a sandwich and fizzy drink. I am still calm although I nervously say thank you to everyone willing me on. I return to the lucky last hole for a sleep, just taking it as easy as I can in this situation. Outside, Iím relaxed. Inside, yes. Iím starting to think is this going to be it. I have now led for five rounds and one more like that and Iím world champion. This may never happen to me again. Hold it together. I choose to try and keep myself to myself, although some of the crowd engage me in conversation.
With the final round, all balls are in play. Generally, 90% of the time, there are no issues but being blocked off is always a possibility. I need to stay out of trouble if I can. I negotiate the first three in par. Olivia and Ed both bag the fourth. I hit a firm putt and it fights through the break for an ace. I scream out and thank my sister, watching over me as she has done, all my life. Things would turn at the seventh. Olivia drops a shot and I sense a chance, which I donít take. I play my tee shot around three foot short. I would go on to take a four. Back to steady twos for me and Olivia, well, is just proving her class, aceing nine and eleven, enveloping a miracle putt on ten over a mound.
For me, my dream will die at the twelfth as I get snookered around nine inches from the cup. I have a choice of two to play off and looking back, I make one of the few wrong choices of the weekend, if you include the extra pint at the end of the night on Thursday. Ed takes a three, I apologise. Adam makes a great shot, pushing mine away as his ball goes in. I apologise. I get the break as my ball doesnít go in the ditch, hitting the one inch of wall that would make it stay at sea level. I make a ballsy shot for a three and the damage is limited. Up ahead, Olivia is smashing the course up and we know that the war is won but the battle isnít over. Chris moves one behind me and Adam, later to be joined by Will, who makes a very timely hat trick. Adam takes a four on the fifteenth and now, runner up is in my hands. Adam swiftly reduces the arrears to one on the next and I respond with the same, punching the air. The penultimate hole, I get a break with Adam covering the cup, I glance off his ball to leave myself a tricky shot from around three feet. Itís there. Just a three at the last and I win about as much money as I have done in my career.
Around the loop the loop, the crowds gather. I couldnít begin to tell you how many people are here, I just donít see them. I am so focussed. The shot is away and misses left by around a yard. Two putts in hand. I push my next stroke over the right edge of the hole about twelve inches past. Itís my honour again. I donít hesitate. Address. Breathe. Swing. Strike. Success. Iím second. At this point, every emotion I have been bottling up is uncorked. I am openly weeping, tears of relief that it is all over. When I first started this adventure just over four years ago, this wasnít even a possibility. I had finished 46 shots behind Olivia and I pushed her all the way this time. We embrace, we know we have been involved in something remarkable.
After a while, I compose myself enough to receive my trophy and prize money. I canít stop smiling and never want this to end. It has to, as me and Ed go through the final round on the walk back to the car. For the first time since Wednesday, I am on my own, just reflecting. I am too drained to get myself worked up. When I get home shortly after 8 pm, I put a wash on and then realise a lifetimes ambition by buying everyone in my local pub a drink. Thankfully, itís quiet. Still frugal at heart.