What a strange week it?s been. The Saturday before last I flew out to Portugal for the ninth Sir Henry Cooper/Mike Reid Golf Classic, which is one of the highlights of my year. It?s a wonderful charity tournament in which 24 celebrities play alongside 72 amateurs in two dozen teams of four. As well as Sir Henry there are former sports stars like Alan Wells, John Taylor, John Lowe, Keith Bertschin and Graham Bradley. And joining Mike Reid from the world of showbiz are the likes of Kevin Whatley, Phil Daniels and Johnny Briggs. Sadly I don?t qualify as a celebrity but attend as part of the TV production team. Amongst other awesome responsibilities, I conduct the interviews. It?ll be broadcast on Sky Sports on June 5 and June 6.
A consummate professional, I am usually totally focused on the job in hand. But this week was different. The three rounds of the competition took place in the Algarve at Palmares, Boavista and Penina. While the competitors were put up in the elegant Meridien Penina, because it?s roughly in the middle of the three venues, the TV crew stayed in adjoining villas in the normally quiet, little, seaside town of Praia da Luz.
All those who have been following the desperately harrowing Madeleine McCann story will recognise the name of the town from which she was abducted. The resort where her family are staying is just 150 yards up the road from the villa in which I?m typing this.
The vast media circus with its outside broadcast vans and giant satellite dishes is camped just up the road and we have had to pass it every morning and evening on the way to and from the golf. I nearly saw the distraught parents twice ? once as they left the little local church just up the road and once when they strolled along the beach. I say nearly because I deliberately averted my eyes as I had no desire to intrude upon private grief.
A keen rambler, on the two days we had off this week I walked along the adjacent cliff tops. But as well as enjoying the glorious sunshine and splendid views, I looked for Madeleine; naively hoping that she would come running out of a field towards me so that I could joyfully reunite her with her loving family.
Today (Sunday) I?m bidding farewell to this now sad little town. Leaving behind the McCann family to continue their desperate efforts to locate their little girl. But my thoughts will remain here with them. Sometimes, golf doesn?t seem all that important after all.