Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Playing Around.. eh.. A Round With Russell

I’ll give you fair warning – this story is about golf. No, wait, wait, don’t click on “Next Blog” cos it’ll just be some angsty teenager contemplating self mutilation or purring about cats. Golf is so much more than just ridiculous trousers and men with small, white balls. It encapsulates everything that is good, honest and fair (and unfair) about life itself. It transcends sport and becomes an intimate human drama with extreme joy and agonising failure. And it means you don’t have to kick around the house cutting the grass or washing the car on a Sunday morning.

Last Sunday morning, I had my first golf match of the year against my good friend Dr. Russell Thompson, loving husband of Katie, proud father of Megan and Jamie and genius expert in some field of science that he’s explained to me a dozen times but I still don’t understand. Something to with human cloning and world domination I think?

Russell believes I’ve been in Florida during the winter helping a friend out with her two boys but little does he know I’ve actually been attending the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Orlando with twelve intensive hours of golf instruction a day. Excuse me while I snigger and twirl my moustache.

Our matches in the past have been keenly fought and it’s fair to say I had the upper hand last year… “upper hand” being equivalent to whooping his scrawny little ass almost every time. Being the Bank Holiday weekend, the weather forecast was God awful for Sunday and I was half hoping that it would be too wet to play when I finally acknowledged my alarm after three snoozes. I could then catch up on the sleep I didn’t lose with the clocks going forward. Although overcast, the rain was nowhere to be seen so I set off with only minimal enthusiasm for Lenzie Golf Club.

Russell was waiting patiently on the first tee as I rushed from the car park with a minute to spare before we were due to start. It was clear he had completed his thorough mental and physical workout in plenty of time and threw me a cheeky smile as he invited me to take the first shot of the day. Bastard. I skied my drive about 120 yards up the fairway and then bit my lip as he topped his about 100 yards shorter.

I won’t bore you (further?) with the handicap system or the rules of matchplay but after this inauspicious start we both started to play well, really well, even after the rain woke up and started to fall. Not intense, heavy rain but that fine rain that can often soak you through. After five holes, I was one up on Russell and only one over par and I promptly went two holes up at the short 6th when my majestic nine-iron almost disappeared into the hole in one and left me a two-foot putt for birdie. (Man, I could write all day about golf.)

Russell showed impressive bouncebackability by winning the 7th and after halving the 8th we both reached the short, par four 9th with two impressive shots. I was only four feet from the hole and looking forward to recapturing my two-hole lead but Russell knocked in an unlikely, long, slippery, downhill putt and it took all my mental strength to control my shaky (and by now, frozen) hands to hole my putt. A half in birdie threes. Game on.

The 10th, 11th and 12th at Lenzie are known as Amen Corner… or at least that's what I was calling them after Russell pulled out his game face (very much like his normal face only redder) and won all three to go two holes up with some sparkling golf. Struggling to stem the tsunami of his fine strokeplay, I managed to halve the 13th and then promptly won the 14th when I didn’t concede his short, slippery, downhill putt and it went sliding by the cup. The respite was only temporary though as I lost the 15th and stood on the 16th tee two holes down with only three to play.

We both reached the 16th green in three shots but Russell was getting his last stroke of the day so he was lying net two. (N.B. A “stroke” is not an inappropriate touching ritual that you have to deliver to your opponent if you’re behind… in the match… so to speak.) We both had similar, fifteen-foot, downhill putts and Russell managed to race his five feet past the hole. I had to hole my putt to have any chance of keeping the match alive so drawing on reserves of courage and determination not seen since the New Zealand bungy jump (3rd attempt), I rammed home the putt and made a mental fist pump (i.e. a celebratory gesture) in the dark reaches of my mind. Russell still had his five-foot putt to halve the hole and maintain an unassailable lead but as it slipped agonisingly past the hole, I was already marching to the 17th tee in triumph.

My seven–iron tee shot landed twelve feet beyond the hole at the par three 17th and when I saw Russell tug his twenty yards to the left of the green, I could smell the first signs of victory in my nostrils… if victory smells like last night’s burritos. Russell made a decent chip shot to ten feet and when I missed my birdie putt he had to make his to keep his one hole lead. His balls of steel made only the slightest of clinking noises as he sank the putt and marched past me to the final hole.

Conversation was polite but stilted on the 18th tee as we waited for the group ahead to move up on to the green. Russell knew he couldn’t lose the match overall but ultimate victory was still tantalisingly out of reach.

Failing to kid myself that I was relaxed and had nothing to lose (except the match) I hooked my drive slightly and watched it hang in the air for an interminable amount of time heading towards the out of bounds posts to the left of the fairway. Thankfully it landed safely in the heavy rough. Wishing to avoid the same fate, Russell over compensated and smashed his drive into the heavy rough on the right hand side of the fairway coming to rest behind a group of trees.

Studying our predicaments, we both came to the same conclusion that the green was out of reach for our second shots. I chose to ignore my conclusion and tried to reach it anyway ending up in a bunker for my trouble.

Russell’s mind was racing. He had to protect his lead and wisely decided to chip out from behind the trees back on to the fairway but it was then that disaster struck. Expecting a heavy lie, his cleanly struck shot flew too far and ended up over my head in the out of bounds area. An immediate two stroke penalty was the result effectively ending the game before reaching the last green.

So, overall the titanic struggle ended in a very honourable tie and as we shook hands on the 18th green, we both agreed that the outcome was the right result. I really hope he doesn’t read all this in case he mistakes my respectful admiration for his game and tenacity as a sign of weakness – I’m still gonna whoop his scrawny little ass next time.

6 Comments:

At 29/3/05 4:02 pm, Blogger McSporran said...

Neil,
I would say that that was a fairly accurate account of the years first golf match in what in previous years has been the "Thompson Thrashing" that you were kind to only hint at. To point out to the uninitiated that I am usually well beaten with 4-6 holes left is to alert all and sundry that this year YOUR ASS is mine (Until you tan it next game out). Still waiting on the official golf website ReiderCup.com to get up and running. At least reserve the domain name. YOUR BROTHER IS IN THE KNOW HOW!?!

 
At 29/3/05 4:06 pm, Blogger McSporran said...

P.S.
www.reidercup.com already exists and you should see the fat asses of the guys on THAT website.
ReiderCup.co.uk
ReiderCup.org
ReiderCup.tv
ReiderCupUK.com
are all available.
I await a fledgling site

 
At 30/3/05 7:18 pm, Blogger DC said...

Neil,
I didn't realise how ... em .... interesting, Golf was. Are all events as competitive?

I know you weren't in Orlando over the winter- you were in Linlithgow, practicing your swing down at the Peel.

DC

 
At 31/3/05 12:13 am, Blogger ropedncr said...

somehow this was more exciting than it is on tv.

 
At 6/4/05 2:54 pm, Blogger Green Glass Beads said...

You DID write about golf all day by the look of it...I sniggered through all your references to your hole as you proceeded to earnestly (and jokelessly) write an otherwise tedious account of willing me to die. I can read milkcartons Neil I CAN READ FUCKING TOOTHPASTE TUBES! Thank god for the rudeness inherent in golf terminology. I would rather read about someone playing with their small white balls...;P

 
At 6/4/05 3:35 pm, Blogger McSporran said...

Neil,
as far as I can tell you did write at the start that it was about golf. If it bores people so badly why do they read about the glorious game?
You will have to document Sundays game just to piss off more people.
And not mention all the holes you will sink it into on the way round...

 

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