The Hacker: Dark and stormy nights made up for all that fresh air in the daytime


Air-shots are a regrettable part of a hacker's repertoire. It's bad enough when the ball flies sideways or only dribbles a few yards forwards but when you miss it altogether the embarrassment is acute.

They are not always straightforward, either. Jarlath, one of our Irish members, found this in the winter league last Sunday when his ball ended up at the foot of a tree.

Sadly, his valiant attempt to hit it suffered a double calamity. His swing missed the ball but didn't miss the tree. The club snapped in half. He then discovered it wasn't his ball.

We who are prone to such mishaps become hardened to humility but much depends onwho is watching and I recently committed one of my worst air-shots in front of a stellar audience.

I bragged last week about my visit to Bermuda as captain of a team of journalists against a celebrity team led by Sir Steven Redgrave.

In relating how our greatest Olympian had beaten me soundly, I neglected to report the low point in my efforts which occurred on the 17th at the superb Port Royal course.

After following meekly in his wake for most of the round, I had just won the 15th and 16th to reduce the arrears and was feeling a bit chipper when I contemplated the drive up the difficult par-five.

However, I was overcome by a sudden urgency to give it a whack and succeeded only in driving the club head into the ground a foot behind the ball.

Sometimes when you hit the ground first the club head goes on to connect with the ball. But on this occasion, it bounced a good six inches over it.

Usually, I can manage a merry quip after such an atrocity but words failed me and when I glanced at Sir Steve and the other celebrity in our group, former football star Gary McAllister, they were manfully disguising a guffaw behind a thin smile of what I took to be sympathy.

It compounded my defeat and that of my team and did nothing for my confidence for the next day's golf.

We were in Bermuda for the Cambridge Beaches British Airways Celebrity Golf Tournament, which was designed to promote golf in Bermuda. Since I've often described the place as a golfing paradise, they were preaching to the converted.

But after playing among ourselves for the Hackers Cup – which the celebs narrowly won – our next event was an Am-Am, in which we joined members of the local business community in teams of four for a Texas Scramble.

The fact that they were paying for the privilege made me feel very uneasy. I know blokes who'd pay good money not to play with me. I took a chequebook along in case I needed to give a refund.

Thankfully, the two gents who were in my team were even bigger hackers than me. Ben Barlaba and Adam Barbosa are in the early stages of their golfing development but were very keen and excellent company.

A fellow journalist, Philippa Kennedy, made up the four – and just as well. Ladies should jump at the chance of a golfing holiday in Bermuda because their tees are about 100 yards ahead of the men's.

Philippa, who hits a mean ball, took full advantage and kept us in the game, although she couldn't stop us finishing last.

But the day was very enjoyable as well as successful. I did manage to win two prizes on the trip. I won a hip-flask for nearest the pin and a cap for a more dubious honour.

We were accommodated at the swish Cambridge Beaches resort and, after consulting with the barmen, the organisers reckoned that I had downed more "dark and stormies" than anyone else.

A "dark and stormy" is a mixture of Bermudian black rum and ginger beer but that's another story altogether.

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