The Hacker: Lennie claws up snakes and ladders to grab oven gloves

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The Independent Online

Watching a hacker claw his way to the top against all the odds can bring a tear to the eye and there were a few of those at our winter league presentation supper on Friday night when Lennie Ingram collected the winners' trophy.

The word "claw" contains a clue to Lennie's achievement because he has rheumatoid arthritis and his hands are so bent and gnarled that it is a wonder he hits the ball at all.

With that generous sympathy for which winter leaguers are renowned, his fellow players have honoured him with the nickname "the claw" but even that hard-boiled bunch can't contain their pleasure at his triumph.

Lennie, a leading local footballer and cricketer in his day, didn't take up golf until six years ago when he was 61 and already suffering from arthritis. With special grips on his clubs he has managed to play well enough to enjoy his golf but never thought he would make an appearance on an honours board or even see his handicap drop from 28.

Our winter league foursomes, the snakes and ladders, is played in two halves – the 10 Sundays before Christmas and the 10 leading up to Easter. The winners of the first session play the winners of the second for the overall title, and Lennie and his partner Peter Goodfellow pulled off a surprise victory.

Lennie can't manage more than half a swing at the most but keeps the ball straight and is a good putter. His partner Peter, formerly a first-class rugby player, hits a long and accurate ball off 13 and between them they proved a formidable pair.

Peter couldn't attend the presentation so Lennie received the trophy on their behalf. "I've never seen a happier winner," said chief snake Bob Bubbins who, in addition to the trophy, gave Lennie a toaster and a pair of oven gloves to keep his hands safe until next winter.

The rest of us hackers can only be inspired by Lennie's example but, inevitably, there is a trace of shame amongst those who do not have any physical impairments that can explain our difficulty in hitting the ball properly.

For us, the lonely struggle goes on, and for me in particular the Easter weekend was a demoralising one.

The course had been closed for most of the previous week and torrential rain on Good Friday encouraged us to think that the Saturday Stableford would be cancelled. It came as a rude shock not only that it was on but that trolleys were banned so we had to carry our bags. Over our hilly course that is an increasing burden.

My heart wasn't in it and I'd acquired just seven points from 11 holes when the heavens opened and we squelched off. The weather improved by Easter Monday but I hadn't. My tempo was all to hell, despite repeating the words Alexander Lebedev, and I had a terrible round culminating in a 13 on the ninth after five-putting.

We are off to St Andrews today so I desperately needed to restore my confidence, but when I played John on Wednesday I was three down after three holes. Then, miraculously, my tempo returned as John's abandoned him. I won five and four and covered the back nine in 41 shots. Hope is restored.

Tip of the week

No 45: How high do I need to tee my driver?

The ideal ball trajectory with modern drivers is to launch it high with low spin. The trampoline-effect faces of the current drivers produce very low spin rates, so the ball needs to be launched high to carry long distances.

You'll often see pros tee their drivers low, but they have club-head speeds in excess of 120mph to keep the ball in the air for long carries. The average male club golfer produces 90mph, ladies 70mph. Without enough launch angle, the ball will fall short of the desired carry. You need to be launching the ball at 14-16 degrees so with your 10-12 degrees drivers, a tee height of a half to a whole ball above the top of the driver's crown will encourage an upward hit and a high launch.

Here are the answers to last week's rules: (1) You do not receive relief from an animal's paw print in a bunker; (2) If your ball finishes on an Out Of Bounds line, all of the ball must be on or over the OOB line to be deemed Out Of Bounds.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.