On Thursday I was a guest of the Bahamas Tourist Board at their annual golf day at Wentworth. Frankly, I would rather the event had been staged somewhere ? anywhere ? in the Bahamas itself. Sadly, that wasn?t a viable option and so we had to make do with the West Course which, I should add, was in great shape. Even the weather was kind, but nowhere near as kind as it is in the Bahamas at this time of year. Never mind.
Not having swung a club in anger for several weeks, I was a little apprehensive standing on the first tee. What makes the opening shot 100 times more difficult are the traffic lights that the starter operates to stop vehicles crossing in front of the tee. In the silence, you can almost hear the drivers urging you to stuff it in the thick stuff quickly so that they can get on with their lives. Seriously, you would have thought that a rich club like Wentworth with their millions would have built a decent tunnel by now. Anyway, I needn?t have worried, because not only did I not hit a car but I actually hit the fairway. Trying not to look either enormously surprised or hugely relieved was in some ways more difficult than the shot itself.
Anyway, a crunched four-wood, solid wedge and three putts later, I walked off the first green with two priceless Stableford points. Not only was that as solid a start as I could have wished for but, with two out of four scores to count, it also got me on the team score-sheet.
What happened next was the stuff of nightmares. I blobbed the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Although five consecutive blobs was a personal best, I can?t pretend that I was happy. At the rate of two points every six holes, you don?t need to be either an accountant or Jon Snow to calculate that I was heading, albeit slowly, to a projected total of six points.
Putting to one side the numerous flaws in my swing, the explanation for this spectacular collapse is, I think, complacency. My first target in any Stableford competition is to get at least one point. After securing two at the first, I think I may have relaxed too much. My second target, making double figures, seemed like a distant dream as I stood on the seventh. But being a gutsy sort of player, I dug deep and bogeyed the last three holes of the front nine to register eight points at the turn.
Again, thinking that I was now more or less there on the double digit front, I took my foot off the gas and blobbed the tenth, which was a double tragedy because I missed out on the only hope I had of picking up a prize, which was for nearest the pin. Once more I had to ask myself for yet another supreme effort. The response was immediate and I put together an impressive string of bogeys. Then at 14, a remarkable thing happened, I parred the hole.
Possibly supercharged with the adrenalin, I stepped onto the next tee feeling invincible and unleashed a bomb of a drive which was at least twice as far as my previous best that day. It was massive. And this was the hole on which the longest drive competition was held. Yippee! Never having won such a thing before, the odds on me picking up the prize would have been about the same as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods being paired together in next year?s Ryder Cup.
My ball must have been still rising when it cleared the board with the previous hapless hacker?s name on it. I was a good 40yards past it and just beyond the further of the two new bunkers on the left which, according to the course planner, is 278 yards from the yellow tees. Still excited, I smashed a seven wood and reached this 458-yard par four in two. With my mind on the long-driving prize (a fortnight?s all-expenses paid holiday on Grand Bahama Island plus two first-class flights, perhaps) I took three putts from about eight feet. Never mind, two more priceless point crashed me through the 20-point barrier.
Although not quite enough to secure a prize, I finished with a hugely creditable total of 24. Our team ? Matt, Geoff, Tony and me ? ended up one under par and about as far back as the sucker behind me in the long-driving competition. My pulse quickened as the prizes were handed out by the Bahamian Minister of Tourism. Then, believe it or not, Gerry, the four-handicapper sitting next to me to whom I was being extremely nice, goes up and collects a beautiful boxed putter and a dozen golf balls for the longest drive. Thank God it wasn?t a holiday in the Bahamas!