She’d have to be called Chardonnay, wouldn’t she? In my day agony aunts were called Evelyn, Edith or Marje and the last was a bit modern – what was wrong with Marjorie? My great aunt was called Marjorie but I digress. I was skimming through “Compulsives’ Confessions” which thunders through the letter-box at Old Bamber Bungalow once a month under plain brown wrapper when I saw a reply to my letter. I didn’t find it very sympathetic but I promised I’d show you it, so here it is:
I have missed out the “Old” as I think that’s part of the problem. You mention in your letter that you have recently retired. Are you feeling a teeny bit unwanted and ‘past it’? Is collecting golf balls an alternative way for you to make your mark on the world – a sort of raging ‘against the dying of the light’?
In my experience obsessional collectors were bottle-fed as babies and are searching for the comfort of their mother’s bosom, which was snatched away from them at an early age. Were you the sort of child who manically collected toy soldiers and Dinky toys and counted how many you had every day?
You seem to have problems taking responsibility for your decisions. Do you really want to play golf? You seem to say your wife was responsible for this. Are your aches and pains just excuses for not doing your fair share of chores in the house? Do you know, for example, how to use the washing machine? If you did some household chores, redecorated a few rooms (I’m sure they need it), focused on improving your golf, stopped taking perverse pride in your hacker status and generally found other useful things to do, you wouldn’t have time to shuffle round golf courses detecting buried balls with the soles of your shoes. The devil makes work for idle hands (and feet). Man up, Bamber!
Well… She might have got my name right. I didn’t even win Star Problem of the Month award and the week’s holiday for two at a Spanish golf resort. After a bit of a sulk – what has whether I know how to use the washing machine got to do with the price of beans? – I decided it was time to meet up with Old Bob for 18 holes at Middleton.
Neither of us was on top form, but whereas for Bob that means one or two duffed shots, for me it entails visiting every bit of semi-rough on the course. My progress was like a drunk knight at chess – rather than two steps forward and one diagonally – it was one step forward and four diagonally. Despite the fact that Bob gave me a shot every hole by the turn* I was about 6 holes down and had frankly lost count (and the will to count). Bob said I needed to practise more and stop this ‘expletive deleted’ ball collection mania. I wondered if he knew Chardonnay… Probably going out together.
I am afraid I was tempted to engage in a bit of gamesmanship once I realised that if I moved my trolley as Bob was about to take a shot it made a bit of a squeak… Eventually we got to the ridiculous 16th where the tee shot on the ultra short par 3 is through some trees and across a patch of grade A stinging nettles. As Bob was about to putt for a three he boasted that this was his umpteenth par of the day. I don’t know what got in to me, maybe it was that devil what makes works for idle hands, but I asked him what was he going on about, he hadn’t got any pars. This coupled with me standing in front of him just so he could see me hopping about out of the corner of his eye put him off sufficiently so he missed his putt… I had to sit on the naughty step (the patch of nettles) for ten minutes as penance but it was worth it.
I had sufficiently put Bob off his putting that on the long 17th, when he was on the green after two very fine shots, he took three putts. This meant I sneaked a half as he was giving me a shot. So maybe the afternoon wouldn’t end in total disaster. The 18th is a par 3 with a raised green. The trick is to hit it a bit long because there is a bank beyond the green, which helps the ball run back onto the green. I don’t know why I’m saying this because I’ve never managed it but I’m sure this is the theory. Bob hit his tee shot onto the bank in front of the green.
I hit my umpteenth shot of the day along the ground and swore in disgust. My second trundled off to the semi rough on the right about thirty feet short of the green. My third – a reasonable (well, it’s all comparative) sand wedge launched the ball on to the hill behind the green and to the left, leaving me a horrid shot of about thirty feet down a bank and onto the green. Bob played a delicate chip and landed his ball on the edge of the green about ten feet from the hole. I must tell his wife about his relationship with Chardonnay…
I had a choice: play a delicate chip on to the green and watch it roll off into a bunker below or putt it. Now, I have been in that particular bunker before and seem to remember I didn’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many shots it took me to get out of it so it was the putting option. I hit the putt down the bank onto the green to the left of the hole and yes – you guessed it, as it gathered pace it went straight into the bunker…. No – wrong guess. It dropped straight in the hole! If you were anywhere in South Leeds at the time you would have heard my childish whoops of joy. So Bob now had his putt for a par and to halve the hole. I was quietly confident he’d miss. But I had forgotten Bob is made of Yorkshire millstone grit. He lined up his putt meticulously and holed it.
I’m off to practise my driving and irons now I’ve got this putting lark sorted…
Glossary of technical terms
* The turn – the point after 9 holes have been completed; so called because on many course the first nine holes lead away form the club-house and the second nine return you to it – so on the 10th tee ‘ you turn for home’.