I spent Wednesday to Sunday last week in London. I travelled south, partly for an editorial meeting and partly to catch up with old friends, but mainly for the Golf Monthly Christmas party. Always a great bash, this year promised to be a cracker (you?ll see what I?ve done there) with an all-star guest list including Golf Monthly?s Playing Editor David Howell, renowned sports writers Bill Elliott and Iain Carter, actor and fellow blogger George Asprey, philosopher and golfing sage Clive Agran plus, of course, the whole Golf Monthly team.
My preparation for the event wasn?t ideal. I received a last minute invite to a drinks do in Soho on the Thursday night that turned out to be a little less civilised than I?d been led to believe, it ended in a late night whisky drinking competition. So I was just a little bleary eyed when making my way back into town on Friday morning. But I had a couple of large coffees en-route and was confident that my energy reserves were sufficiently replenished.
Some would consider 1.00pm an early start for a Christmas party, but those people may not be aware that Golf Monthly?s staff and hanger?s-on are a determined and hardy troop of warriors keen for a challenge. When it comes to golf the ultimate for GM would be Carnoustie off the back pegs in a gale. Unfortunately I, and some of them I fear, have neither the ability to play Carnoustie off the back pegs in a gale nor the stamina to start drinking at 1.00pm without being made to look a little foolish.
A champagne reception at Golf Monthly Towers got the show on the road. IPC?s glamorous new offices are open-plan so Angler?s Mail and Rugby World had the chance to watch our little drinks party. At first I felt sorry for them: on the fringes of our shindig while they had to continue working. But, after a couple of glasses of fizz I realised they were actually extremely fortunate. Listening in to our fascinating conversations they must have learned a great deal about golf course design, the standard scratch system and the World Amateur Golf Rankings. That information is like gold.
I won?t go into the gory details of how the afternoon/evening unfolded. Let?s just say a good time was had by one and all. It took me an hour and a half to find my way back to Highbury and Islington from Waterloo and by the time I got there I had a small cut on my forehead ? origins unknown.
Tuesday saw the playing of golf?s two most prestigious Championships: The St Andrews Christmas Quaich and The St Andrews Christmas Plate. For those unaware of the format and history of these great events click here for more info.
The same protagonists travelled to St Andrews as in 2006. Our objectives were as follows:
Stewart: To keep a nine off his card.
Jim: To improve on his third place finish in the Plate last time out.
Dad: To reclaim the Quaich for the first time since 2004
Fergus: To retain the Quaich for a third successive year.
To be honest there was a disappointing amount of comedy this year. Jim was the only man to rack up a big number with some bunker trouble on the seventh. Otherwise we all played fairly well and both tournaments turned out to be close run affairs. I managed to keep it together to shoot 74 and win the Quaich by two shots and Stewart improved considerably on his score from last year to win the Plate with a 73.
I?ll just finish with a little self-indulgence and a description of a shot I played on Tuesday, one of the best of my career. Apologies if it reads like something out of Bobby Jones? memoirs.
The pin at the 17th was in Open Sunday position, tucked right behind the Road Hole bunker. My drive had found the edge of the rough on the left side of the fairway so I had three choices: lay up to the front right of the green, play long and left toward the 18th tee or go for the pin á la Rory McIlroy in the Dunhill Links. A rush of blood to the head made me choose the final option. I had 170 yards and I decided to play a full-blooded 8 iron. It flew towards the heart of the green with a touch of draw. The ball landed softly just over the bunker and stopped at the back of the green 10 feet from the cup. I two putted for par, stretched my lead over dad to two and, with that, had sealed my victory.