Hackers' golf has a bad reputation for tearing up fairways and greens up and down the country. But yesterday, in the shadows of Mentore Towers, an awe-inspiring gothic mansion that was once the home of the Natural Law Party, there was an very good reason for 144 golfers to display their varied talents.
Ever since Declan Duggan's 19-year-old son Kevin was killed in a car crash, six years ago, he has arranged annual golf days in Kevin's memory, to raise money for charity and in the hope of playing to his 18 handicap.
Yesterday Duggan, and around a hundred of his friends, gathered at the Mentmore Golf and Country Club in Bedfordshire for this year's event. Duggan, an Irishman, a pub landlord, and a key figure in the White Swan quartet, was there to lead the charge at the shotgun start at 10 o'clock and five hours later was still going strong when driving for the flag at the par-three 18th hole.
Duggan was accompanied by two of his oldest friends: John, a 15-handicapper and a man entrusted with the most onerous task of the day, namely scorekeeping, and Kevin, new to the game and on holiday from his job at a school. There was an uplifting feel to the entire day.
That was partly thanks to shots such as John's five wood from under the lip of a fairway bunker which lifted vertically before resting a foot outside the trap. After a solid round by Kevin he came unstuck at the 17th when a tree managed to get in his way, forcing him to take three shots to get clear. For John's part the distraction of the surroundings can have been the only reason he took a seven at the par-four 10th. "The hole that broke the camel's back," he groaned.
The humour level had been raised at the preceding tee by your intrepid reporter when my five iron travelled 30ft and was destined for the water before hitting a hazard post and rebounding directly back on to lush green turf.
As the chief organiser of an event that culminates with a charity auction back at his pub - he has raised tens of thousands of pounds over the years - Duggan could be forgiven for having had something of an off day, although he did treasure his drive from the tee at the 16th to a perfect position on the fairway.
No doubt his son, who was a keen golfer himself, would have appreciated it. In his memory, Duggan has raised the money to build a nine-hole course near Luton.Reuse content