The Hacker: Mike can't get past first base with baseball grip as Big Jim joins 100 club

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The Independent Online

Weather conditions were so wretched in our October medal last weekend that I had plenty of miserable company in my forlorn struggle to break 100. Most of the competitors returned their worst resultsof the year.

Prime among them was Big Jim, a nine-handicapper who scored exactly 100. It was much better than my 116 but it meant that we shared the same net score of 91, which would not have cheered him up at all.

Furthermore, Jim qualified to play in this weekend's Centurion Cup, a competition open only to those who have failed to score less than 100 at least once during the 10 medal rounds we play. This year, thanks mainly to our lousy weather during the summer, we have a record number of more than 150 qualifiers.

Sadly, many of the lower-handicappers decline to enter, because they are not willing to be seen dead in an event fit only for hackers.

Big Jim, however, is happy to join the march of the doomed and the desperate. He probably fancies his chances of winning it. Most of us would happily settle for breaking through that 100 barrier in what is our last chance of the year.

The Centurion Cup is the brainchild of Mike, who eight years or so ago took pity on my much-mocked struggles – yes, it's been a long time since I scored less than a ton – and after studying the club records discovered that more players failed to beat 100 than anyone had imagined.

More than 50 per cent score over a century in at least one medal, so he organised the Centurions as a consolation competition. It has proved very successful.

It also causes the better players to have nightmares when they have an off-day. Some tear up their cards rather than suffer the shame.

Sadly, Mike has joined us. He played off 14 when he created the event, and there was little chance he would qualify. Then he had to have a shoulder operation and his handicap shot up to 19.

We've played together in the last five medals and his aim was to break 90, but he wasn't far behind my score.

Last weekend he threatened to give up golf altogether. Even after deleting the oaths, his words were full of serious intent. He had just taken 12 on the par-five 11th after hacking his way from tree to tree. He then drove into trees on the next hole and had to tap out sideways before pulling a shot into a dreaded leylandii tree – and it stayed there. So it was an understandable explosion.

Mike had been trying a two-handed baseball grip he saw being used to good effect by J B Holmes, one of the stars of America's Ryder Cup triumph. It worked well at first, but then he started carving it right.

"That baseball grip is working," I said helpfully. "That would have been a lovely home run over first base." His 107 was lower than my score, but he has known much better days than me and was utterly despondent.

Happily, he has decided not to fulfil his threat to give up the game, but his performance this weekend is all-important.

I am doing what I can for him. I am playing withsomebody else.