The Hacker: Sons suffer for swings of the fathers

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As I know to my cost, father-and-son com-binations in golf can lead to an uncomfortable amount of domestic strife. Troubles are fewer if the father is a good player, but if a hacker introduces his son to the game it is often a painful experience.

The pattern is that you will start the boy off at the age of 10 with a junior set of clubs. You will then put up with his on-course tantrums and persistent theft of your equipment during his teen years, and as soon as he reaches a higher standard he won't be seen dead playing with you.

There are family competitions, however, when you have to link up, and the patience you showed him in his formative years is never reciprocated. Children can be so cruelly critical, and no matter how much humiliation a hacker goes through in his golfing life, nothing is more hurtful than hearing your own son wishing he was an orphan.

That's why it was so pleasing to see a happy father-son partnership step up to collect the wooden spoon at our winter league presentation dinner last weekend. The battle to avoid the spoon places such a big strain on the pairs concerned that members of the same family tend to shy away from playing with each other. But Zico was delighted to play with his dad, Aras.

Zico had taken up the game only last December, at the age of 18, and needed a guiding hand through his introduction to winter golf. Aras comes from the Kurdish part of Iraq and arrived here 26 years ago to study engineering. While at university he made some unflattering references to Saddam Hussein's regime, and was advised that going home to Iraq might not be the healthiest option. So he applied for permission to stay here, and has built a fine career for himself.

Aras, who goes by the subtle nickname of " 'Arry", took up golf five years ago, and although he is still operating off a 28 handicap he loves the game. But he and Zico did not have a good session. They managed to win only one game out of 10, although they should have won another when they were seven holes up after seven against Les and Mike, a local headmaster.

They then went into the refreshment cabin, and Mike consumed a can of cider that had an amazing effect. He and Les began whittling down the deficit. Aras and Zico tried to hang on, but the match was all square by the 18th and they lost on the 20th hole.

On the final day, those in contention at the top and the bottom of the league take out Stableford cards as tie-breakers, and Aras and Zico managed only six points, two going out and four coming back.

Yet Aras received the giant spoon with words that embody the true spirit of golf: "We've enjoyed every minute," he said.

Zico will not be joining his father in the league next winter. After his A-levels in the summer he is going to his father's country for a gap year to learn the language and the customs. We hope that one of them is staying faithful to his old dad no matter how bad a player he is.