The Hacker: Chance of Scotch missed but I soldier on with century duty

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The Independent Online

If you were in charge of 100 men in a Roman legion you were called a centurion. In our club they call you a centurion if you've been responsible for 100 shots or more in a monthly medal.

Same name but two utterly different descriptions – one a proud and fearless warrior and the other a quivering wretch of a failure.

But, call us what you will, we soldier on and last week was our day or, at least, part of it was. The Centurion Cup was devised specifically as a consolation event to those who fail to break 100 in at least one monthly medal during the season.

Some scoff at it as a competition for incompetents or, worse, a tournament for tossers. Sadly, snobbishness in golf is not confined to the pink-gin brigade. Players who regard themselves as an elite take a delight in mocking the afflicted. But there are more of us than might be thought.

Last year, 150 failed to break the ton at least once and that was 60 per cent of those who played regularly in the 10 medals.

This year the failures totalled 127 but there was a rise in the number of no-returns, which is a refuge for those who would prefer to rip up their cards than have to face the disgrace of becoming a centurion.

The Centurion Cup is staged between the two rounds of the club's version of the Ryder Cup. This highly competitive 36-hole event matches Wales against the Rest of the World.

Selection is based on performances in the medals with the top 14 chosen automatically and topped up to 18 with four wildcards each.

At the dinner the previous evening the players were presented with their sponsored team shirts and, this being the 10th year of the event, I said a few words, as I had been the Welsh captain, non-playing of course, in the first year.

I pointed out that my motivational powers had resulted in the biggest ever Welsh victory but I had never been asked again.

There was a stark lack of sympathy for this outrage but plenty of derision for the fact that I had been the worst centurion the previous year with a score of 122.

Since the best and the worst scorer in the Centurion Cup each get a bottle of scotch, I was even accused of deliberately playing badly. Fools, do they think that it is easy to score 122?

A large number of hangovers turned up at the first tee early the following morning and after the nine Ryder Cup games had teed off the centurions trudged along behind.

It has been suggested that on our way around the course we should replace divots, repair pitch marks and rake the bunkers ready for the afternoon session but we ignore such insults.

We are too intent on taking advantage of this last opportunity to make amends for our disastrous year and Reg, an 18-handicapper, did so in style with a nett 65.

Alas, 25 out of 64 entrants failed to break 100 again and are fast-tracked through to next year's centurions. I was among them and at one time I was the leading loser in the clubhouse with 112. But my chances of another bottle of Scotch were dashed when Stuart came in with a 124.

Still, you have to look on the bright side. I reduced my score by 10 shots and if do that every year I'll be playing off scratch by 2014.

Tip of the week

No 24: ball below your feet

Probably the most difficult to manage of all the awkward lie shots is having the ball below the level of your feet. When addressing the ball it is easy to feel you're going to topple forwards on the slope, but you must resist putting weight on your heels to compensate. The ball is essentially further from you at address, so try taking two extra clubs as the shaft is longer (e.g. a five-iron instead of a seven-iron), and grip the club at full length.

Make sure the ball is positioned in the middle of the stance with your weight on the balls of your feet. The lie will encourage a steeper plane which promotes a slice spin shot, so aim left at address with your feet, hips and shoulders. How far left depends on how much the ball is below the feet. Remember to go easy, and keep your balance.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey