The Hacker: Our serviceman misses out on medal as Max tames Barbarian

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The Independent Online

Great joy for our regular three-ball last week when one of our number won one of the club's top competitions. It wasn't me, it was Max who came home with a net 65 to win the Barbarian Cup, but at least I can claim some credit.

First of all, I marked his card, which is not a massive job, admittedly, but for someone who has enough trouble adding up his own score it is something of a minor triumph to get it right.

My main contribution, however, was to lead a campaign – both at the club and in this space – to establish full allowance for all handicappers under the new Congu directive.

Until last year, the handicap limit in this event was 18 and had been so ever since the splendid silver trophy was presented to us by the Barbarians RFC in 1925.

Glamorganshire was an integral part of the Baa-Bas Easter tour of South Wales which began in 1901.

From Good Friday to Easter Tuesday they played Penarth, Cardiff, Swansea and Newport but had the Sunday off, which they spent playing golf and having a sing-song in the bar.

They played their own five-a-side version of the game of golf under a set of unique rules including "air shots don't count if ball not moved".

After 25 years they decided to show their appreciation by presenting a cup in their name on condition that it was played for in true sporting spirit and that if there was a dispute on any hole, the players should sit on the green and discuss it over a bottle of Worthington.

Alas, a less imaginative dispute procedure now exists and the Barbarian Cup is a highly revered trophy which Max has always set his heart on. He has been second twice.

Now aged 75 and playing off 20, his chances weren't rated highly but Mike and I, his regular partners, wouldn't have written him off, especially with his full handicap.

He surprised even us by dropping only six shots on the outward nine. My front nine score was 53, which by my usual medal standards was fair but, suddenly, it didn't seem that important.

When you play in the same chatty three-ball, it is uncanny how the putting together of a very good round by one player can affect the other two.

The banter quietens and the mickey-taking stops. The last thing you do is say how well he is doing. That's often the kiss of death.

You just let him concentrate and although Max threw in a triple-bogey on the 15th hole, he came home with a 42, giving him a gross 85 and a net 65, which was two shots better than the runner-up. Had the handicap limit not been raised he would have faced an 18-hole play-off.

As it was, Max received the trophy from Wales and British Lions legend Derek Quinnell and a happier man you couldn't meet. He's even promised to stop moaning.

Not so fortunate was Scott Jones, who came in with a net 66 and would have claimed second place.

However, Scott's handicap is inactive because he hasn't put in the required number of cards over the past year. Although he can play in competitions, he is not allowed to feature in the prize-giving.

Scott is in the RAF and has spent most of the time serving in Afghanistan. At the presentation the captain apologised for this. But that's golf; rules are rules and we can't accept any old excuse.

Tip of the week

No 52: Stay behind it for power

It's easy for a professional to say to his pupils "swing easy for consistency and better striking", but it is much more difficult for the average amateur to put that into practice. If you're going to give it a hit from the tee and try to knock it past your buddy, remember one thing: "Stay behind it." Whenever I see an amateur trying to hit the cover off the ball, they all make the same mistake of throwing themselves at the ball, rather than allowing the club to do the work. Next time you try and kill it, keep your right heel (for right-handed golfers) on the ground as long as you can through the ball. This will help to keep the body back and allow the club to strike the ball on the upswing. If you do manage to catch it out of the middle, you may just gain an extra yard or two!

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey.