The Hacker: Getting back in the swing isn't turning out to be a bit of armless fun
Sunday 15 March 2009
Today, our club professional will face a challenge the like of which few club pros ever face. No, he is not going to give me a lesson.
Indeed, he has been giving himself lessons all week in a bid to avoid the ignominy of receiving the wooden spoon in our winter league.
The reason that club pros rarely find themselves in this situation is that few would dare expose themselves to the merciless demands of winter league golf – a level of the game capable of destroying the finest player.
Andrew, who has been our pro for 30 years and prior to that was a teaching pro in Yorkshire and Scandinavia, hadn't played competitive golf for 10 years before electing to play this winter.
The format in our winter league is foursomes, and the minimum combined handicap is 20. Thus Andrew, who has to play off scratch, can only play with a high-handicapper and, to be fair to him, has selected his partner from the weakest of our brethren.
He is playing with another Andrew, who is better known as Alf (which stands for annoying little fellow, or something like that). Alf plays off 26, and they have managed to lose all seven matches in the post-Christmas session.
Andrew just cannot understand why he is playing so badly, and he mutters instructions to himself all the way around.
How embarrassing and how ironic that the man who gives lessons to members every day of the week can't cure his own failings. If the pair lose today and again next Sunday, they will receive the wooden spoon and all the disgrace and mockery that goes with it.
But when I saw him on Thursday he was feeling much more confident, because his assistant, Peter, had videoed his swing and he can see where he has been going wrong.
Twenty years ago, Andrew played regularly in the winter league, and never had any trouble no matter who his partner was. He once played with a man who had no arms. Graham had lost both his arms at the shoulder in an industrial accident but could drive a car and play golf with clubs specially adapted to fit his metal arms.
Graham was allowed to play off 36 and was a very popular member. After finishing his round, he would change into his drinking arms – one had an attachment to hold the handle of a pint pot, while the other gripped his cigar. He could hit the ball a fair way, too, and he and Andrew won their share of games.
Since then, however, Andrew's game has suffered from disuse, and his old swing has proved elusive. "I can look at anyone else and tell them what they are doing wrong but I can't look at myself,' he complained.
Eventually he sought the help of the video camera, and saw the problem immediately. He wasn't flexing his legs and, as he says, you can't turn properly on stiff legs.
He was hitting the ball crisply when I saw him, and there's no professional golfer in the world who'll be more fired up than he will be today.
He and Alf have to give their opponents 10 shots, but I'm backing the old pro to get his pride back.
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