Golf: Jacklin's Ping-Pong game rolls back years: A master craftsman lights up the Dunhill Masters with a heroic round while his octogenarian caddie enjoys the fairway after the speedway

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TONY JACKLIN stood over a 5ft putt at the 18th. In his hands he held a grotesque-looking putter, the make of which is called Pong. He drew back the extra heavy club a few inches and tapped the ball wide of the hole. The crowd made sympathetic noises but when Jacklin tapped in the second, shorter putt for par they broke into warm and prolonged applause. The lorry driver's son from Scunthorpe was a hero again, if only for one day.

Jacklin, who won the Open in 1969 and the US Open the following year, was back on the leaderboard. People looked at the scores, rubbed their eyes and then enjoyed the view. Jacklin on 67, five under par, right up there after the first round of the Dunhill British Masters over the Duke's course at Woburn. When he walked off the 18th he was followed by a small, wiry man who was carrying Jacklin's large, heavy bag. Geoff Pymar, a former speedway champion, was born on 14 February, 1912. To the rest of the field Jacklin may be getting on a bit but he is a whipper-snapper compared to his caddie. Together they could qualify for the R and A golf museum.

Jacklin, who was born in 1944 and who turned professional 18 years later, had had enough of professional golf a decade ago. A Lloyd's name, he is attempting to resurrect his career on the senior circuit, waiting for his passkey, his 50th birthday. With this in mind he has been accepting sponsors' invitations to play on the European Tour and the results have been sufficiently bad for some people to question the morality of a has-been taking the place of a young player. In 10 appearances last season and this Jacklin has missed the cut nine times. When he did play all four rounds, in the Volvo Masters, there was no cut.

Jacklin could argue that without his exploits 20 years ago the present professionals would not be enjoying such a lucrative living. And then came yesterday's performance, a timely reminder that the old swinger can still play a bit. He had five birdies, no bogeys and had he not missed that short putt at the last he would have shared the lead with David Feherty and Jean Van de Velde. 'I've been working very hard,' Jacklin said. 'I'm enjoying my golf again.'

What prevented him from enjoying it was his lamentable putting. 'My mind was sending messages that weren't getting delivered to the hands. I was not in control. Prior to this I would sabotage a round with my putting. Now I can hold it together.' Apart from changing his backswing he has consulted Harold Swash, the 'putting doctor'. Then there is the Pong, a club manufactured in Florida which Jacklin bought for dollars 15 ( pounds 10) while rummaging around a shop in Charleston last year. The rest of the clubs in his bag are Ping. The Pong is not as long as Sam Torrance's broomstick putter but longer than a conventional club. Instead of placing the handle under his chin he places it on his chest but the pendulum method is similar.

'It's a long time since I've been on a leaderboard,' Jacklin said. 'It's easy to get ahead of yourself. I was quietly aware I was doing well and I tried not to get excited.' Asked if he could win, he replied: 'If I have another good round I'll start thinking about it. I'd know what to do although I'm not looking for miracles.'

It seems that in his octogenarian caddie he has already found one. Pymar does not receive payment for his services but then his employer has barely won a penny. 'I do it for the love of it,' Pymar said, 'although I am going to scrounge a glove off him.' Pymar, like Jacklin, has a family to support. He got married at the age of 72 to a 19-year-old bride and has children aged seven and four.

A couple of years ago Pymar, who plays off a handicap of 15, gave Nick Faldo some putting lessons. He did not get paid for that either. Yesterday Faldo was one stroke behind Jacklin but not half as content. Bernhard Langer, after a 70, is three strokes behind Jacklin. 'Maybe he's trying to make the Ryder Cup team,' Langer said. Jacklin, the former Ryder Cup captain, is not looking for miracles. He is looking for another yesterday.

(Photograph omitted)

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