The Hacker: For once the chips are down as gin proves the perfect tonic
Sunday 19 July 2009
Admittedly, it wasn't the best chip shot you've ever seen but it certainly didn't deserve the scorn that has been heaped on it over the past few days at Turnberry.
It would have been bad enough had this sneering been directed at any of the 156 golfers contesting The Open over the Ailsa course.
But they escaped the mockery that rang around the media centre because it was aimed at me. It was my chip and it narked a lot of my fellow grafters in the press.
Usually, a hacker can enjoy his time at The Open because he doesn't have to play and face the normal humiliation.
Indeed, it is therapeutic to be able to spend hours wandering around a truly splendid golf course watching the best players in the world wrestle with the rough.
But sometimes the social life can contain a surprise. As a break from our labours during Open week we sometimes accept invitations to various soirées and one which caught the eye on Wednesday was from a gin distillery.
Ever inquisitive about manufacturing processes, we arrived en masse at the Girvan distillery, which is chiefly engaged in the making of Grant's whisky but has a small corner devoted to an up-market gin called Hendrick's.
After sampling a glass or two of Ailsa Breeze, which is part gin and part ginger ale, we were invited to take part in a nine-yard niblick challenge.
This involved using an ancient niblick, the original name for a wedge, to chip into an ornamental flower pot, diameter 18 inches, nine yards away. Each player had nine shots at it. Simples, as a meerkat might say.
Yet the first dozen or so who tried failed to land one in the pot. When I stepped up there was much chortling because my chipping is notoriously bad and when I stabbed the grass behind the ball at my first attempt, hilarity ensued.
But a stunned silence greeted the sight of my second shot travelling at knee height, just clearing the front lip of the pot and dropping just below the back lip to settle in the bottom.
There followed an outbreak of language that I ignored as I completed my nine shots without troubling the pot further. My name was written on a blackboard and I was told there would be a play-off later of all those who chipped in.
I went back to the bar and an hour later my name was still the only one on the board. It was estimated that more than 40 had entered so there had been over 400 attempts and only one success.
I was presented with a pocket-watch and chain inscribed with the legend Hendrick's Gin. I am amazed by how many colleagues still begrudge me it. Jealousy can be an appalling part of golf.
It reminded me of a story that David Howell told in a wonderful speech at the Golf Writers' Club dinner the day before. Playing in the 2004 Ryder Cup in the States, he had thinned a six-iron on to the 17th green and it helped him and Paul Casey to win a vital point against the USA.
That thinned shot was later named as Shot of the Year.
I don't expect an accolade like that but credit where it's due, I say.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre