Saturday: I haven’t been well over the last day as I choose this time to get my annual bug. However, with a spot of self TLC, I wake up feeling much fresher. Not hugging the toilet is a bonus. This weekend brings my club, the Sussex Wasps, its first chance to host an Open. I chose my local course in Peterborough as I have a great relationship with the guys there. They’ve looked after me since it opened in 2015. With it being a new course on the tour, it will bring a fresh set of challenges to everyone.
I get to Peterborough just after 9 am and start by brushing the course of small stones. The first to arrive is Jon Angel, the course designer and former British Champion. Jon will be playing his first event in nearly five years and he may be showing signs of getting back into playing some more. We try a few shots out before have a round. I choose this moment to beat the existing record with a 20 around the twelve hole set up. I have gone better here, just never witnessed. Shortly before midday, Jon leaves and I head to the station to pick up Derek Bentall, my vice captain. After trying to track down Derek, I spot him wandering slightly bewildered, before shouting his name.
Back at the course, I give Derek a guided tour before lunch. Even from the first few minutes, it is clear he just clicks with the layout. Sometimes, you just do. I’m impressed by the speed of Derek’s learning. I could have easily not made myself available for this but I wanted to make this as fair as possible. I’m under a lot of pressure as everyone thinks I will simply just turn up and win because I’m the only one who knows how to play Peterborough. I came down the previous weekend and three people took advantage of my services. Today, it’s just the two. As it turns out, the ones who did get the practice in would go on to have a very good weekend. The course closes at 5 pm as it is in the back of a garden centre. We manage six rounds in the afternoon. Derek is extremely consistent, the best I’ve seen anyone else play here. I probably just shade it but only by a shot or two.
I drive us back to my house around twelve miles away. Derek remarks on just why I moved here. It’s a bit on the remote side but very scenic. Any house guest of mine gets looked after so I make one of my favourite meals, chicken skewers. “Nothing too spicy”, says Derek, as I pour over the paprika. After dinner, we make the draw on Facebook Live, the first time I have tried it. We make an effort, donning suit jackets. I feel like a septuagenarian, remarking on all the emojis appearing across the screen, but somehow, technology. It’s great. From there on, we go to the next village for Irish Jimmy’s 80th birthday. Every time I meet him, I always come away having discovered a new swear word and as he meets a blow up doll, I learn another. As I’m in the car, we don’t stay for long and head back into Ramsey. A couple of beers later and the day is done. Tomorrow is another matter.
Sunday: You must know by now that I sleep light on game day and I scratch that itch once again. Determined to make my houseguest as welcome as possible as I don’t have many people visit, I prepare a full English breakfast. Another empty plate so I guess that went well. We’re ready early so have half an hour listening to music and making sure everything is done. I’m nervous as I still have a bit to do when I get to the course, write the cards out, mark out the tee box and for the first time ever, a nearest the pin competition circle. The 11th is almost impossible to ace so there is £10 for whoever gets closest. Everyone gets a maximum of forty minutes practice before the competition. With the briefest of rules briefings, which I forget to mention a couple of things, including why the circle was drawn on the 11th, we are underway.
My group is Marion Hartley from the south coast and newcomer Bob Linnell from Rutland. We start at the 10th, which is the Amen Corner of minigolf. Three testing holes will follow, which are the last three on the track. I get through the first two well, before getting a bad kick at the 12th, ending in the water. The trick to Peterborough is keeping your head until the mid section, where the real ace chances lay. For me, they fail to materialise. I’m not playing badly, even Bob comments “I can’t believe how close some of those got”. I’m three shots behind Derek, level with Adam. Bob impresses with a 26 and Marion hits some great putts for a 28. At this point, the public are starting to arrive. We don’t have a closed off session so this is where my big fear starts. As the day goes on, as strange as it seems, this actually makes for a more relaxed atmosphere as they are respectful of us and in return, if we feel we’re in the way, we’ll let them play through. It’s the same for everyone and no one complains.
There is an almost immediate turnaround between laps so, as to keep things moving and allow for the assembled cast to take advantage of lunch after round three. My second round almost mirrors the opener, lots of nearlys, the odd ace, the odd drop (I play a replica of the 12th from the first round). A 24 is steady but not good enough for me. Derek bags a second 22 and moves into a strong position. If I am going to challenge, I have to start the fightback now. As I input the scores, it is clear that those who practiced have benefitted the most here. A few under par rounds are coming in and at one point, five people now hold the tournament record for a round. Round three is a clean 23, with five tee shots getting within two inches of an ace. My hopes of winning my own creation are disappearing fast as Derek matches his pair to make three of a kind. Jon Angel steals in with a 21 to set the new tournament low. Lunch for me is a brie, bacon and cranberry panini. The food at the garden centre is outstanding and everyone but Charlie, who packed a lunch, loads up.
I suggest 1.45 pm is about right to let the food settle and get on with the final round. Derek is having a standout day, even leading the nearest the pin contest. Who would have thought that was where the real action would be later on. I’m in the lead group with Adam and Derek. If I have any chance, I need to get off to a fast start. At the third, the long time leader makes a double bogey and the door is slightly ajar. However, Derek recovers well and plays the mid section immaculately, making the four holes in one on the earmarked holes. He’s been so determined and resolute but even with three holes left and a seven shot lead, his concentration has most deserted him. The crowds on course are enjoying the demonstration provided.
Meanwhile, at the 11th, Owen equals Derek’s effort for the nearest the pin. A number of people charge over, I yell “TAPE MEASURE”. More people are now watching the measurement than playing the course. Derek has as good as sealed everything by now. On the 11th, I also get inside the circle. “TAPE MEASURE!!!”. Unbelievable scenes. I also have the same distance. There will be a playoff. The top two spots are tied up, with Derek calmly taking his first tour win. It’s a massively popular victory and hugely deserved. The aces prize is decided by a playoff with debutante Bob beating Adam with an ace at the first. The nearest the pin playoff is as exciting as it sounds. The one rule was it had to go over the crown of the bridge and stay day. All three manage to put the ball in the water. At the second attempt, Derek stays dry and wins the tenner.
I’ve wanted to involve everyone today and no one goes home empty handed. They will all have a memento of the first Wasps Open. It’s worked out so well and I want to thank everyone for their kind remarks. I’m buzzing. As we’re packing up, a real mystery happens. There is a lucky last hole, where people have to knock the ball up a slope into a half pipe, which will drop into a pin board. It can’t go anywhere else. Many witnesses saw the ball go into the pipe and then, it disappeared from the planet. Around ten people tried looking for it. Sure enough, the ball had vanished. A complete mystery.
Well, you pick them from the station, show them the lines, feed them, take them to the local bars, give them a bed for the night, feed them again and then they go and beat you. That’ll teach me. Well played, Derek. Well played.