The Hacker: Memories of the Baa-Baas' invasion leave me feeling a little sheepish

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The Independent Online

My worst ever performance on a golf course was much easier to endure because it took place on our Barbarian weekend.

I don't mean Barbarian in the way my dictionary defines as "an uncultured or brutish person: a lout". We do have plenty of those at our club but I mean Barbarian as in the world's most famous rugby touring team, whose links with The Glamorganshire golf club go back to 1901.

That was the year the Barbarians first included Penarth RFC on their Easter tour of South Wales. They played Penarth on Good Friday, Cardiff on the Saturday and before going on to play Swansea and Newport spent Sunday at our place.

Whether or not they'd played before, each player had to join in the Baa-Baas' peculiar version of golf in which air-shots didn't count and if there was a dispute the players were expected to sit on the green and discuss it over a bottle of Worthington.

Then they adjourned to the bar and had a sing-song with club members who thoroughly enjoyed mixing with the finest players of the time.

Unfortunately the Easter Tour did not survive the arrival of professionalism and ended in the 1990s but the memory lingers on, and during my medal round a few weeks ago our captain came up to say that 35 rugby players from Holland were waiting in the bar for someone to tell them about our connection with the Barbarians. Would I oblige?

They were members of the Tovaal club who were playing a couple of matches in the area and wanted to pay their respects to what was the Baa-Baas' only regular home.

I told them a little of the history and showed them the Springbok head won by beating South Africa in 1961, and they kindly presented me with a Tovaal RFC hat. I said I was quite moved and that it was the first time anyone had given me a Dutch cap but nobody laughed.

I was also able to tell them that after the Easter Tour ceased we were determined to maintain the tradition. Every year we hold a Barbarian golfing Sunday in which the Baa-Baas and the clubs they used to play against take part.

This year we had 20 four-ball teams and the trophy was won by one of the Baa-Baas teams comprising 1971 British Lion Geoff Evans, former Wales coach Tony Gray and current players James Barter and Nathan Thomas.

Derek Quinnell, another veteran of the historic 1971 Lions, made a great speech and the evening became convivial enough to allow me to forget the previous day's disaster when I scored a wretched 121.

As well as all the memories, the Barbarians bequeathed us an impressive silver cup in 1925 for us to play for annually. It was in that prestigious event that a combination of shanks, lost balls and one air-shot led to me besmirching their name with a disgraceful score.

In the bar much later on, one of our better players who had come in with a 72 said to me sympathetically: "I can't imagine scoring 121." "That's funny," I said, "I can't imagine scoring 72." That's what makes golf such a great game. It's a mystery to us all.