Saturday: After months of planning and acquiring a selection of goods that Bargain Hunt would turn their noses up at, the weekend of my club open had arrived. We have record numbers for it this year, which has immediately put me on edge. People have been arriving since Tuesday for it, although Martin and Dee cunningly disguised this fact as having a few days away for their silver wedding anniversary. For me, this event means everything to me. The Sussex Wasps are the black sheep of the BMGA family and with it being a fortnight before the British Open, some of the bigger names are missing. With the aforementioned large field (in relative terms), it gives soon of the newer players a chance to shine like the Cambridgeshire sun.
I leave home for the course after preparing dinner for some hardcore practice and coaching, for whoever wants it. Other roles for me during the day include taxi driver, financier, hotelier, chef, chutney raconteur and ball salesman. I want to ensure everyone goes home happy with the event, even if the course beats them up. The day starts well as I finally, after four years, have a witnessed round of 19 on this twelve-hole course in Peterborough. In my head, this has set me up for a large fall. I am particularly delighted with turn out on the Saturday. Thirteen of us are there, learning the lines, checking ball choices and finding out how to stay dry on the 11th, one of the hardest holes on the tour. I had only just cracked it the previous weekend.
As the day winds on, I mark off the tee areas and the circle of doom on the bridge hole. It’s a fifteen inch chalk line from the flag and for those who enter it receives riches beyond their wildest dreams. There is a rollover from last year where no one got in. Henri gets closest in practice at just over an inch. Dee even hits the flag. I get distracted during the afternoon as for once, my betting slip looks like it will be worth some money this week. I make a 400% profit. I decide this to be a good omen for everything else.
We call it a day shortly before 5pm and head back to mine for chicken skewers and the draw for the groups while wearing Hawaiian shirts. Derek has the spare room and Henri the sofa, so same arrangements as last year. In the evening, I try to plan something fun and light-hearted. Two years ago, I took Derek to Irish Jimmy’s 80th birthday party, where the octogenarian was presented with several blow up dolls. Last year, Martyn informed us that there was karaoke at the pub he was staying near. This year, tenpin bowling, which I haven’t played for four years and I was rubbish. My local lanes are quiet and I knew we’d get a couple of games, so quiet in fact, getting shoes was like a pick your own. Henri started off strong and after the first game, held a seventeen pin lead. As the second game went on, I remembered how to bowl and stormed to victory. A few late beers and the day was done. I had the course record, I won the bowling. Was there to be a hattrick?
Sunday: My preparations hadn’t been helped by a few late dropouts for various reasons, so I spent some time reordering the groups and prize money. My Sunday pick up from the station was getting the slightly later train, so as we had already left the house, I took Derek and Henri for a viewing of the Keith Flint mural at an underpass, one of the most outstanding pieces of graffiti I’ve ever seen. When we arrived at the course, Paul, Terry and Tim had already been there an hour. Not bad for a course that wouldn’t be opening for a further forty minutes. I have a few surprises up my sleeve for the morning but want a quick knock to get the pace. I’ll take a 21 for sure.
To save myself the trouble of doing the rules briefing, I had been on a digitised text reader program to do it for me, which allowed me act like an air steward as way of a demonstration. I think it went well. I also set the practice session to one of my Spotify playlists, who wouldn’t want to putt to the soundtrack of Rump Shaker by Wreckx-N-Effect. I remember how much I enjoyed the Czech Masters in 2017 when they did this too. The draw had grouped me with Henri Myers and Dee Relf. Here we go. I know everyone is looking at me as the odds-on favourite, which makes things worse. I haven’t delivered in Peterborough before, which had caused me a fairly sleepless night or two. Most of my spare weekends, I had been up here, trying to get it right. Peterborough is very reliant on the correct ball as almost every hole requires a rebound. The effort was ticked off, it was just the application now.
I started well, level par through the first half of the course. Hole six was my favourite hole and proved so as I aced it. We finished on the bridge hole, my first went into the water but I didn’t panic. I knew the ball was good. Made a three for an opening 24, which gave me a share of the lead with five others. Perhaps this would be the year it wasn’t a blowout. Henri chose to start round two by getting the bridge hole out of the way early and all three of us played it well. The public were now slowly coming onto the course, which is the beauty of our event. We integrate with the people, thus allowing another distraction parameter. The worst was a couple of years ago when an overly hyperactive father was trying to encourage his clearly bored children that they were having fun. It was desperate.
I played a clean round, aceing the sixth again, to move into a two-shot lead ahead of Derek. The fast pace of the day meant we were straight into round three. I dropped a pair in the first five holes and had to really dig deep to keep the momentum going. Henri was playing inspired minigolf and it drove me on. I finished the round making three of the last four to move to two under, into a three-shot lead. I was grateful while importing the scores into the system that David offered to buy me a sandwich. “Anything but tuna, please,” I said. Going through my head was ways at which I could throw the event away. Regular readers of my column will know that I’ve written the book on how to blow a tournament. Five occasions immediately spring to mind. I didn’t really want to have to come out with a fresh excuse.
My playing partners for the last round were the two previous winners, Derek and Ruth. I knew the heat would be coming. Within two holes, my position had become almost unassailable, having started with a par and ace. I gave out an olive branch by clipping the side rock on the third and taking a double bogie. Any chance that I could get reeled in was wiped out as any challenger couldn’t make the move during the crucial mid-section. As I got to the bridge hole for the last time with a five-shot advantage. I spoke to my ball, just asking for one last effort. It came to rest within two feet of the flag and with a clenched fist and audible grunt, I knew I’d won. As I rolled in a par at the last, I could feel myself get emotional and hugged Derek. This time last year, mum was still fighting on but losing the battle. It is still very raw. The first person I would have phoned would have always been mum. Dad is great to talk to, if I can get a word in after hearing about how good his Spaghetti Bolognese is. I enjoy listening, one day in future, they will no longer be around to listen to.
All that remained to do was hand out the prizes, I won £50 and a presentation cheese board, drop off those who needed dropping off and head home. It was over for another year. For me, it doesn’t matter how I did in the tournament, although I am mightily relieved to have closed one out. I’ve always wanted to be fair to everyone since it began so I will spend the time to make people feel that they got the best advice, they were given an equal chance and they believe that as fun as the day had been, next time will be even better.
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