The Hacker: My purple patch is starting to leave better players red in the face
Suddenly, with a modest flourish of half-decent shots that no one thought me capable of producing, this old hacker has chalked up a few surprise successes in knockout competitions.
No one has called me a bandit yet, not to my face at least, but it can't be far away, even though I have yet to translate this improvement into a sub-100 medal round.
That's one of the troubles of spending years trying to claw yourself out of the golfing mire. Fellow members get used to your struggles and you even become a figure of fun, if not derision.
But show the slightest sign of acquiring the ability to hit the ball in roughly the right direction on a regular basis and you become a menace. This is because when alow-handicapper plays a high-handicapper he has to give plenty of shots, and if the former can't rely on the high-handicapper playing like a pillock, he could be in trouble.
Since last year, good players have been put in more peril by the golf unions granting the bad players a larger allowance. We used to get three-quarters of the difference between the handicaps; now we get the full difference.
Figures show that the advantage still lies with the better players, but it means much closer battles.
My partner John and I caused the shock of the year when we beat the favourites in the foursomes knock-out competition. They had to give us 18 shots, which normally they would do without too much trouble, but they had a rare off day and we had an even rarer good day.
My shots didn't save me from being knocked out in the first round of the singles, but my form has taken a turn for the better and I won my first match in the Veterans Cup. Last week I faced Bob Bubbins, who plays off nine, in the second round.
The fact he had to give me 19 shots caused great amusement, but since he has long been a single-handicap player I wasn't given much chance.
Bob is one of the characters at the club and has just finished a three-year stint as the chief of the hilarious Sunday riot we call our winter league.
He suggested we hire the caddie car for our match and I readily agreed, because it meant we'd be in the bar quicker. When he went two up after three holes I thought our arrival in the bar was fairly imminent.
But he never won another hole. A mixture of my hitting the ball better, a shank that infiltrated his game and my large pile of shots saw me win by the 14th.
Typically, he laughed it off, although he did protest a little when it came to the sixth – which is stroke index one, our toughest hole – on which I had two shots.
It is 400 yards long with out-of-bounds down the left and a wide ditch running across the fairway 40 yards from the green. I was 15 feet from the hole for three net one. "How the hell can I compete with that?" he asked, with some justification.
He said something similar when I was at the back of the green on the par-three 10th for one net nothing.
One disgruntled hotshot in the bar afterwards said he would have walked off. "Charming," I said. "You happily watch me playing crap for 30 years and then object because I hit a few good shots."
I'm not sure how long this purple patch will last but I'm enjoying it, however temporary it turns out to be.
PS: For the past dozen or so years I've been the only journalist happy to call himself a hacker while completely unaware that there were so many others at work. I see no reason to change the title of this column but I would like to stress that I only hack into golf courses.
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