The Hacker: At last I have found a partner for my date with destiny
After a series of embarrassing refusals I have at last discovered someone willing to play with me in the winter league – which is just as well because it starts this morning.
Over 100 of the club's hardiest golfers squelch across our course to take their places on whichever of the 18 tees they have been allocated and wait for the hooter to start us off promptly at 9am.
If you get up late, by the time you read this my partner and I may well be squelching morosely back to the clubhouse after a heavy defeat because we have been drawn against one of the pairs fancied to win the 10-week competition.
The important thing is that I have a companion willing to accompany me on this tough passage through the worst of winter.
It is not easy to find a partner. The competition is foursomes and the players take alternate shots, and to spend 10 successive Sundays having to rescue the ball from where I've hit it is not appealing even to my close friends.
I approached five of them and the excuses they made varied from the exotic to the plaintive. Simon, who plays off two and with whom I once won the Boxing Day cross-country, had the best.
He is a life-long friend of Mark Mouland, the former European Tour pro who started on senior tours on both sides of the Atlantic last year. He plays in Florida next month and there's a chance Simon will go across to caddie for him.
Martin, who plays off four, watches his sons play mini-rugby every Sunday morning, Mike had already blagged a 10-handicapper as a partner while Andy gave some wimpish excuse about the weather.
Max injured his leg descending the wrong side of a stepladder and didn't think he could carry me, and John, who plays with me every Wednesday at Royal Porthcawl, thought once a week was enough.
Such cruel rejections leave one last resort. You give your name to the secretary/manager and he will try to link you up with another lost soul. It's a bit like a dating agency: "28-handicapper would like to meet long-hitting partner, must have good sense of humour."
Another hacker with whom I have played many times had found himself in a similar situation. Thus Bob Colley and I were officially joined in an unholy alliance.
I am in no position to criticise anyone's swing but Bob's follows a path that is difficult to describe, so dependent is it on a flexibility of his arm joints that has earned him the nickname "rubber wrists".
All that matters is that he brings the club head into square contact with the ball and has a better record of accomplishments than me, although he has reminded me that he has won the winter league wooden spoon six times.
However, he won four of those while partnered by Graham, who has no arms. A marvellous man, Graham lost both arms up to the shoulder in an industrial accident but contrived to live a richly fulfilling life with metal arms which could be adapted for any purpose.
He had a set that could grip and swing a golf club and after the round he changed to one that could hold a pint glass and sport a V that could hold a cigar. Not many complained about their lot in life when Graham was about.
As I have two wooden spoons, Bob and I were installed as one of the favourites for that dishonour.
Today we face Liam, off eight, and Robert, off 15. They have to give us 16 shots so we should be out there for at least 13 or 14 holes.
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