The Hacker: Beaten by booze and the big guns

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The Independent Online

When a golf hacker is also a golf hack it can lead to confusion, not to mention embarrassment. The first term comes from the dictionary definition 'to cut or chop roughly', and the second from the next entry, in which a hack is described as 'a dull, uninspired writer'.

When a golf hacker is also a golf hack it can lead to confusion, not to mention embarrassment. The first term comes from the dictionary definition 'to cut or chop roughly', and the second from the next entry, in which a hack is described as 'a dull, uninspired writer'.

To have almost your entire life summed up in one short word is profoundly depressing. It was, therefore, some comfort last week to be in the company of 24 men who could be thus characterised.

The occasion was the Golf Writers' Home Internationals, in which England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are unwittingly represented by those normally to be found in the press tent. However, covering golf doesn't make you a good player. This sad fact is not understood by many, and you try to explain that your newspaper pays you to be good at writing about the game and doesn't really care whether you can play it or not. By the same token, opera critics don't have to serenade the editor, nor are war correspondents required to show any expertise with the bayonet on their way out of the office.

Nevertheless, I don't know a golf writer who isn't keen to play at every opportunity. The home internationals are something else, though. Initiated by the redoubtable Irishman Pat Ruddy, who not only writes but designs great courses, the tournament is now in its 10th year.

Anyone who remembers the press outcry at the excessive patriotism displayed by the Americans at the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline would be shocked at the brutal rivalry. The Welsh, of whom I have the honour to be captain, are obviously at a disadvantage because we have far fewer golf writers than the others and, accordingly, I have amassed an enviable collection of wooden spoons and a file of insults I shall soon be handing over to the Commission for Racial Equality.

Last week we were at the Marriott Dalmahoy, a splendid golf complex near Edinburgh, which at the same time was hosting the final rounds of the Daily Mail Foursomes. How Dalmahoy's director of golf kept us from clashing with the top club players apart from in the bar was a miracle of organisation.

Speaking of the bar, the success of Ian Woosnam at the World Match Play the previous day had an effect on some of our players. Ian is known to like a pint and one or two decided to seek inspiration from the same source. This resulted in late arrivals on the first tee and one non-arrival, despite desperate attempts to rouse him by telephone and hammering on his door. It eventually transpired that he was blissfully sleeping in the wrong room. (We know he had the right room the following night because he was found sleeping outside it at 3am.)

As for the golf, Scotland's skipper, Jock McVicar of the Daily Express, picked up the trophy. Ireland and England shared second place and Wales came last. There was no wooden spoon. They know I've got a kitchenful.

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