As a rule, hackers are happy when creating havoc in private, with only their long-suffering playing partners as witnesses. Occasionally, however, they have to face a wider audience. I am today embarking on a trip which will severely test not only my golf but my nerve.
It is difficult to call it an ordeal because it will take place in what I consider to be a golfing paradise: Bermuda. I have been fortunate to visit this enchanting island many times and on this occasion have been invited to take part in the Cambridge Beaches British Airways Celebrity Golf Tournament. Some journalists have been thrown in, to ensure the tone doesn't get too high. But with Britain's greatest Olympic hero, Sir Steven Redgrave, leading the field, the profile is pretty high. Also with us are the Australian rugby star Michael Lynagh, former Scotland and Leeds United captain Gary McAllister and television presenters Charlotte Jackson and Gethin Jones.
We will be competing for the Hackers Cup – coincidentally, I assure you – and I shall be watching carefully to see how many genuine hackers are among us. Celebrity sportsmen have been known to carry dodgy handicaps.
We are playing at Port Royal, which recently staged the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, featuring the four major winners of 2011 and won by the US PGA champion, Keegan Bradley. Renovated at a cost of more than £10 million, Port Royal has a par three which is claimed to be the toughest in the world. But I am determined to stay calm and composed at all times.
After suffering so many embarrassing moments on golf courses I am sufficiently hardened to humility not to worry any more. However, I still wince at my most cringeworthy moment, which took place at Walton Heath many years ago. I forget the occasion but there were a few celebrities involved. Happily, there weren't any with our group, in which I was partnered with Jack Statter, the then golf correspondent of The Sun and a marvellously eccentric man.
We were playing greensome foursomes, in which each of the pair tees off, they choose the better shot and then play alternately. Just as I was about to take the first drive, I noticed the next group had gathered around the tee. I was less than pleased to see that one of them was Sir Sean Connery.
A very good golfer, Connery is not known for his ability to suffer fools gladly and, I imagine, hackers even less so. This did not improve my state of mind. It is hard to describe what went wrong but the ball flashed off the toe of the club, hit the nearby tee-box, then shot vertically an amazing height into the air. It landed a yard in front of me with a thump that was quite audible in the eerie silence.
Jack rushed to examine the ball. "It's still breathing," he announced, to a welcome roar of laughter from the onlookers. Whether Connery joined in I couldn't tell. I didn't dare look. But there was worse to come. Jack earned another laugh when he said: "Don't pick it up. It might be our better ball."
He then hooked his tee shot out of bounds. Mine was thus the better ball and it was his turn to blush as he took one pace forward to play it.
We called Connery and his pals through as soon as we could and, after we'd finished a crestfallen round, got the hell out of the place.
I shall do my utmost to avoid any similar disgrace in Bermuda.Reuse content