The Hacker: Normal service is resumed – I'm back to my worst again

The paths of glory lead but to the grave. One hesitates to be too melodramatic about a little game of golf but my unprecedented run of knockout successes came to a sad end last week when I lost in the semi-final of the Veterans Cup.

So perish the dreams of a 28 handicapper, and strong contender for the title of worst player in the club, who suddenly found himself basking in the limelight after a string of wins. There are no complaints: I lost fair and square to John Letton, a 16 handicapper who is one of those lethal club golfers who consistently plays close to his handicap.

One consolation is that I did give him a scare at the start when I went three holes up after four. "You frightened the life out of me," he said afterwards.

I think I frightened myself even more. Hackers aren't used to finding themselves storming into the lead. It seems too good to be true and it usually is.

John was worried because he was having to give 12 shots to someone whose form had astonished everyone. I was still rubbish in medals but in match-play I could give anyone a game.

Although I hadn't played for three weeks, I'd had a lesson the previous day and was hitting the ball quite well. I would have won the first had he not holed a 16-footer for a half but I only dropped one shot over the next three holes to go three-up.

As we came off the par-five fourth he casually wondered how many 28 handicappers get a par on that hole. I got a par on the next hole, too, but he sank another longish putt for a birdie.

I managed to fritter away the lead with help of one or two wayward shots but the pattern was emerging that if my putting didn't improve I was going to struggle because he was dynamite on the greens. It's all very well to have 12 shots but if you are two- or three-putting every green and he is one- or two-putting the end is nigh.

I was three-down with four to play and missed a three-footer to give him a half on the 15th and then I three-putted the 16th to give him a half and a 3&2 victory.

Despite the nasty weather it was a very enjoyable game and at least I didn't make a complete fool of myself. The important thing is I still have confidence in my improvement which will now face another stern test. Today, I am heading for France and a couple of games at Le Touquet. It is the annual outing of the Dregs golf society which consists of veteran golf writers who never leave much in the bottom of their glasses. A more formidable bunch of mean-eyed mercenaries you couldn't fear to meet.

I usually bring up the rear but I'm hoping that my new-found style of swinging soft and slow and not allowing tension to take a grip of the club will cut down the errors.

When you are among the less gifted of golfers, it is vital to stay positive and fight against the feelings of frustration that ruin any attempt to maintain calmness and composure.

Frustration on a golf course is inevitable but you mustn't allow it to become a destructive force. Treat it as a healthy sign of a yearning for happier days that may one day be fulfilled. If a goldfish can cope so calmly with its forlorn search for a way out of the bowl so can we.

Mind you, the goldfish is said to have an attention span of only three seconds. Most of us hackers can keep focused for at least twice that time.

p.corrigan@independent.co.uk

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