Prior to any outdoor activity, mission one was to procure a hearty breakfast to replenish energy reserves (some of the team’s stocks have been severely diminished over the last few days.)
The reason for the fatigue is that from Friday night until Monday afternoon, Mike, Jezz and I have been in St Andrews competing for the UK in the second running of the “Writer Cup” – An eight-a-side, biennial, contest between British golf journalists and our contemporaries from the other side of the Atlantic.
The format was – two rounds of four-ball better ball on both Saturday and Sunday, then one round of singles on the Monday morning. We fought it out with the Yanks over Kingsbarns then the Torrance at the Fairmont on Saturday, the New Course then the Dukes on the Sunday before the singles around the Castle Course.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable contest and one I’m pleased to report the UK ran out 14-10 winners of. The courses were all in superb order and the camaraderie and friendly competition was straight out of the top drawer.
I don’t want to give a complete “blow by blow” account of how the matches were won, but Jezz and I thought we’d pick out some highlights:
– Teeing off in round one at Kingsbarns in absolutely sublime conditions and knowing the forecast was set fair for the entire day. There are few places better to be.
– Tom Beddell holing a 75-yard shot at the Torrance Course. Bill Robertson and my initial reaction was celebration, then concern as we realised it probably meant we’d lost the hole. That fear quickly subsided as Tom walked onto the green and said “Some five eh?” We were then in a position to congratulate him on his shot with some sincerity.
– Waking up on the Sunday morning at Fairmont St Andrews and pulling back the curtains to reveal leaden skies and a not insubstantial volume of rainfall. St Andrews or not, there was not a lot of banter as we headed for the New Course with everyone clearly thinking (but not verbalising) their distinct lack of desire to head out onto the links at 7.44am. Mercifully the precipitation quickly eased to mentally manageable levels.
– When high fives were exchanged by the whole group on the tee of one of the par-5s of the Torrance Course as, finally, Fergus, Bill, Tom and Jeff all managed to find a fairway so there would be no searching for balls in the unbelievably punishing rough. Martin Vousden told me after the round that their group had lost a total of 30 balls in the thick stuff and had found just three.
– Playing a match with Fergus in which our back nine took us on a rollercoaster ride of emotion from near-depression to disbelieving euphoria and ultimate flatness as we went from 3-down through 10 to 2-up with two to play before snatching a frustrating half from the very jowls of a magnificent victory.
– Old Tom Morris appearing to regale us with tales of his life and exploits during our Sunday night dinner at the Old Course hotel. He was looking remarkably well for a man just 12 years off celebrating his 200th birthday.
– Cruising around St Andrews in Golf Monthly’s Range Rover Vogue (kindly given to us for the week). With the tinted windows we could all imagine that we were someone vaguely important.
– Experiencing a magical sat-nav moment in our Range Rover Vogue as Mike Harris and I made our error-strewn way from St Andrews to Turnberry. It cleverly diverted us off the M8 away from congestion down what appeared to be an unmade farm track for about 5 miles – something confirmed by our ultimate meeting with a vast herd of cattle being steered along by a farmer who must surely have been wondering what a couple of Sassenachs in classic knitwear and a swanky 4 x 4 were doing on his drive. We got there in the end.