The Hacker: The pro who taught me won't recover

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The Independent Online

In accordance with my New Year Resolution No 3 (sub-section 2), I presented myself at the golf course last Monday ready to begin the remorseless regime of practice to which I've sworn to adhere throughout 2002.

In accordance with my New Year Resolution No 3 (sub-section 2), I presented myself at the golf course last Monday ready to begin the remorseless regime of practice to which I've sworn to adhere throughout 2002.

OK, it was 7 January and I was late starting the year. This was due to slipping on the ice on New Year's Eve and jarring my wrist. It was very sore, and I couldn't face swinging a club. Also, the weather was freezing.

Fortunately, Monday was quite mild: miserably grey, but warm enough to require no more than a shirt and sweater as I commenced to remedy a fault that has dragged my game into the depths.

This is only part of the resolution. I must freshen up my attitude to the game. I must motivate myself to get better, and display some active distaste for my hacker status.

I would like to say that this resolve came to me in a dream, but it didn't. It came to me in the bar, when a drunk who had been talking complete bollocks suddenly found a lucidity of expression that startled me.

"You know your trouble," he sneered, "you've managed to turn a negative into a positive. You're a bad player who has found a way to make it sound forgivable. You've lost your ambition to play better.

"You're happy to make a fool of yourself, because it'll make a few amusing paragraphs for your daft little column."

His words were like hammer blows. I tried to counterattack by saying that deep down I ached from the frustration of it all, but his eyes had glazed over again.

He was right, of course, but his case is not as savagely correct as he put it. My only intention in this space has been to put the case for average-to-bad golfers – without whom the game would be much the poorer – and help them cope with the derision they suffer. We have a legitimate place in the game which should be respected, and if I had a slogan it would be: "Hackers of the world unite – you have nothing to lose but your balls."

But hackery is not a condition that should ever breed satisfaction. A golfer of any standard owes it to the game to strive constantly to improve. Hence my determination to grapple fiercely this year with the array of faults that bedevil my game.

Sceptics have asked me what handicap I intend to go down to. Who said anything about lowering my handicap? I just want to play to the one I've got, if not a little below it. It's years since anyone called me a bandit.

My aim is to play better golf despite the disadvantages that nature has inflicted on me. A lack of hand-to-eye co-ordination is one. Hands and eyes? I can't even get them to acknowledge each other's existence, never mind co-ordinate.

My first task is to improve my play around the green. I'm fine when I'm on the green because my putting is not too bad, but I'm pathetic in trying to get there from within 30 yards.

I have been coached and advised by experts, to no avail. After my fifth futile lesson with one pro, he refused to take the fee. He blamed himself, and for all I know is still trying to recover his confidence.

As I tried to explain to him, it is a mental thing – like the putting yips which have affected great golfers such as Bernhard Langer.

Other sportsmen also suffer. In darts, Eric Bristow went through a stage when he couldn't let go of the dart. A top snooker player couldn't bring himself to strike the ball when using the rest.

Everyone sympathises with them, but they just laugh when I prove incapable of executing a simple movement of the club that will chip the ball into the air and on to the green.

It is a serious condition that I am determined to conquer. If I can stop laughing myself, it'll be a start.

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